25 september 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with leaders of Dagestan and local militia veterans

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with leaders of Dagestan and local militia veterans ten years after international terrorists attacked the North Caucasus republic.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Aliyev (Mukhu Aliyev, President of the Republic of Dagestan), friends. Today people in Dagestan and in Russia recall the tragic events that happened here ten years ago.

We remember how in late August 1999 a large group of well-armed international terrorists attacked Dagestan, which means they attacked Russia.

I remember that tragic event very well; I saw it happen. This is why I can tell you with confidence that the terrorists suffered their largest defeat in Dagestan. It happened because virtually everyone in Dagestan rose in defence of their republic and Russia's territorial integrity.

It was only to outside witnesses and at first glance that it looked like a local conflict. In fact, the issue concerned the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. And when the people of Dagestan decided to take up arms to defend their republic and Russia as a whole, their resolve became the crucial factor in defeating the gang of international terrorists. The terrorists suffered their largest defeat in the sphere of moral resolve. They suffered a moral defeat, which was quickly and unavoidably followed by a military defeat.

We know that the situation in the North Caucasus, including Dagestan, is far from simple; in fact, it is very complicated. Attempts are still being made to destabilise the situation, but I am confident that none of these attempts will succeed.

The federal authorities have always supported Dagestan, including in a much more difficult situation in the past. We assure you that we will continue to provide our support to you in the sphere of security and law and order, as well as to social and economic programmes, such as the creation of jobs and solution of social problems.

On September 25 and 26, people in Makhachkala and other cities of Dagestan will recall those events and revere the memory of the heroes that died when defending us. I will do so too, and I wish the people of Dagestan all the best. I wish you success and express my gratitude to all those who took part in those tragic events, who did not surrender, who won.

Mukhu Aliyev: Thank you, Mr Putin.

Everyone in Dagestan also remembers the year 2000; we remember how you received a large delegation from Dagestan on New Year's Eve. It was our first New Year after we defeated international terrorists. People in Dagestan remember how highly you spoke about the republic and its people in 1999, 2000 and subsequent years, the people who, as you have just said, upheld its historical choice in favour of remaining part of the Russian Federation, who defended the territorial integrity of our state.

Our delegation has come here at your initiative today, ten years after we defeated international terrorists. Last year, you visited Dagestan together with the heads of federal agencies. You know Dagestan very well; you know its people, their strengths and their weaknesses. You have said many times that Dagestan's greatest treasure is its people. These are courageous and simple people who love their land and their country, and who will defend their country and their land to the last drop of blood, if necessary and without exalted words.

I would like above all to express our gratitude to you for everything you have done, and continue doing, for our republic and for our country.

I have come here with a large group of people representing different ethnic groups living in Dagestan. They are doing their jobs honestly and are befitting representatives of the republic. There are many of them, and each has done much, and is doing much for the country.

Sitting next to you is Svetlana Sultanova, the widow of a police captain who, together with the people from the village of Gigatli, was the first to repel the terrorists on August 2, 1999, when large-scale military operations were not yet launched in the Tsumada District, which you mentioned more than once. They did not allow the terrorists to advance. Sultanov was decorated posthumously with the Order of Courage. Svetlana Sultanova works at the Interior Ministry.

You also know our mufti, whom you have met more than once. At that difficult time, the republic wanted to hear the mufti speak. And the mufti did not think long - he donned the uniform and said that it was not a jihad, it was terrorists who must be repelled. It was a powerful inspiration for the people of Dagestan.

And this is Ruslan Gusarov, a prominent TV journalist. An absolute majority of Dagestani journalists acted promptly and provided objective coverage of the events. Ruslan continues to work hard, making TV documentaries and shows on the fight against terrorism. We have brought you his documentary "The Hot Summer of 1999" about those events and everything connected with your visit.

And this is Polina Khalilova, a wonderful person. You decorated her with the Order of Courage. She and her colleagues were in a building surrounded by terrorists, and they fought back for a whole day and night, providing us with crucial information and maintaining contact with the regional administration, the Lipetsk OMON special police, and the headquarters. The military used their information to deliver strikes at the terrorists.

Magomed Magomedov was head of the security group deployed on a very difficult stretch of the border with Chechnya. Their task was to prevent the groups of militants from entering the republic. He did much then, and is still doing much as a veteran.

You know about Karamakhi, the village where Shariah order was established in 1998. This is Abdullah (Umarbekov), a businessman. When the militants seized the village, he did his best to fight them. And when the hostilities stopped there, he entered every home to lead the people to safety, although the militants entrenched in the village threatened to kill him. A crushing blow was delivered at the village after all local residents had left it, and all terrorists were killed.

This is what was happening then. Much has changed in the ten years since those events. But the intentions and plans of those who want to weaken Russia in the North Caucasus have not changed. Our people are aware of this. Their attempts failed ten years ago, and will certainly not succeed now.

We are confident that the situation will improve fundamentally. Evidence of this is not only the support we receive from the federal centre, the President, the Government, and you personally. Last year, the republic received substantial assistance after your visit to Botlikh and Agvali. The construction of several projects has been completed there. I have brought you several photographs. Here.

The republic is consistently developing the economy despite current problems. We have maintained last year's development rate in virtually all spheres. We have commissioned 20% more housing this year than in 2008. We have no wage arrears, and social benefits are paid monthly. I believe that the difficulties we are still facing will be overcome. We have the resolve to do so, and I think our meeting today will boost our resolve.

Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Where are the photographs?

Mukhu Aliyev: (Shows photographs) This is a school in the Tsumada District, and this is...

Vladimir Putin: This is an outpatient clinic.

Mukhu Aliyev: Yes, this is an outpatient clinic. The school and the clinic have been completed. This is the school.

Vladimir Putin: Excellent. How many students can study there?

Mukhu Aliyev: 470, I think... And the outpatient clinic...

Vladimir Putin: Do you have the equipment for it?

Mukhu Aliyev: Yes. The clinic is working, and the school too.

Vladimir Putin: What about the road, the tunnel and gas supply?

Mukhu Aliyev: The main part of the road to Botlikh will be completed this year. A part of the project will have to be finished next year, but the main part will be completed this year.

Vladimir Putin: Do you receive the necessary allocations?

Mukhu Aliyev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Have you completed the tunnel?

Mukhu Aliyev: We will complete the bulk of the project this year. As much as 3 billion roubles has been allocated for it. It will be opened to traffic at the beginning of next year.

Vladimir Putin: And gas supply?

Mukhu Aliyev: Gazprom started compiling project documentation with its own funds last year, and is completing the documents for connecting the Botlikh and Tsumada districts to gas supply networks. They will start connecting customers to the networks next year, and promise to complete the process in both districts in 2011.

Vladimir Putin: And the villages will be connected to the network too?

Mukhu Aliyev: Yes.

Svetlana Sultanova: Mr Putin, we would like to thank you for your attitude to Dagestan. We appreciate it. We remember the 1999 events and your visit. It came as a big moral support to our people and the republic. We appreciated your courage, but we love you more for your charisma, and your charm.

There is a tale in Dagestan. A fox is asked: "How many wisdoms do you have?" "A hundred," the fox replied. "And how many of them do you use when you encounter an enemy?" "I use 99 wisdoms to avoid the encounter, and one wisdom to escape my enemies."

Today, ten years after those events; we want to assure you that our people are wise people. They use all the 100 wisdoms to preserve peace in Dagestan. If they must use weapons to do so, as they did ten years ago, they will take up arms to protect peace.

We wish you health and success in your work, and also good luck. Thank you for your special attitude - at least this is how we see it - to Dagestan and our people.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I wish you success too.

Mufti Akhmad-haji Abdullayev, Chairman of the Muslim Board of Dagestan: Mr Putin, you are one of the first Russian leaders to have demonstrated in practice your respect for Islam and love for Dagestan and the Caucasus as a whole. You are fighting terrorism, supporting the clergy, and promoting Islamic education. We are grateful to you for this and we say "Barkala," which means thank you very much in Dagestan. I thank you on behalf of all Dagestani Muslims.

As for the tragic events of 1999, you said - and you certainly know more about them than we do - that we defended our homeland. But this is the duty of every Muslim. We do not even see it as heroism; we consider it our duty. We have no other homeland, and we want Russia to be a strong country.