'The Chechen Republic is an integral part of the Russian Federation'
The Chechen Republic is an integral part of the Russian Federation, whose borders, as a legal successor to the USSR, are inviolable and based upon the principle stating that the integrity of the existing countries and the inviolability of the post-war European borders as stipulated by the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on the Security and Co-operation in Europe, are the priority. The Chechen issue is therefore definitely an interior matter of the Russian Federation.
This doesn't mean we reject any co-operation and contacts with foreign institutions regarding the Chechen conflict. It is in Russia's interests that the political settlement in Chechnya should be implemented with maximum transparency. Russia therefore continues a full-range constructive dialogue with various international and European organisations (such as OSCE, PACE, etc.).
According to the results of the referendum held in Chechnya on March 23, 2003, 95 percent of the residents voted in favour of a new republican constitution, which is to give Chechnya wide autonomy within the Russian Federation. In May 2003, the Russian State Duma approved an amnesty law for the members of separatist and extremist organisations. It has also been decided that the presidential elections in Chechnya should be held on October 5, 2003, followed by parliamentary elections. The Agreement on Power Distribution between the federal bodies of Russia and those of the Chechen Republic is currently being elaborated. All these measures are aimed at bringing back peaceful life and establishing fully authorised power institutions in order to bring the republic back into the legal and economic framework of the Russian Federation.
The improvement of social and economic life of the Chechen people is now becoming the reality. The republic's electricity network has been recently restored, with nearly all its towns and regions supplied with electricity and gas. The railway traffic is functioning. There are 60 oil wells in operation; the daily oil output has also been increased.
The social welfare situation is also improving. As of today, 200,000 residents receive pension pays, some 180,000 are provided with unemployment benefits, and children allowances are paid for 400,000 children. The local education system is steadily recovering. There are over 400 schools in Chechnya providing general education; a number of colleges, including the Chechen State University, are also working. Federal TV channels and radio stations, together with the local ones, broadcast over 70 percent of the Chechnya territory. The newspaper's circulation exceeds one million copies. It is expected that by the end of the year some 80 percent of the Chechens who were left homeless during the war will receive money compensation (350,000 roubles per family).
Important measures are being taken in order to secure the return of the refugees back to the republic, since the repatriation is an essential precondition for the normalisation of political and social conditions there. More than 80,000 people, who used to live in Chechnya, are now known to have been displaced, some of them living abroad. But the returning process is underway: 85,600 people have returned to Chechnya in the year 2002. The decision, lately taken by the Russian authorities, provides compensation to those Chechen residents who lost their homes, and it will definitely contribute to this positive trend. The way home is not closed for all the Chechens, including those who temporarily live in Turkey. Anyone who is eligible for the amnesty can be sure he may return to Chechnya at any moment.
I would abstain from commenting allegations of Russia "using the Kurdish card" within the Chechen settlement context. These claims are irresponsible and completely groundless, since they are against the principles and the whole philosophy of our foreign policy and do not comply with our two countries' objectives for Eurasian cooperation.
Your newspaper has always been known for its objectivity and respectability, and I therefore cannot help expressing my surprise by the fact that the article of this kind was published in the same TDN edition together with the reports about the recent terrorist attack in Moscow, causing multiple casualties among civilians.
With best regards,
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Turkey