Millennium 2000: Russia's New President, Vladimir Putin, Reaffirms His Commitment to DemocracyAired January 1, 2000 - 1:05 p.m. ET
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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton began the new year with a phone call to the acting president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. As you know, Boris Yeltsin surprisingly called it quits on News Year's Eve.
Let's go to the White House and CNN correspondent Chris Black, who has more on the president's conversation -- Chris.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, President Clinton began his new year with a little bit of business -- a congratulatory telephone call to the new acting president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Joe Lockhart, the president' spokesman, said that the two leaders promised to continue to work together to continue a strong partnership between Russia and the United States. Mr. Clinton told Mr. Putin that he was very encouraged by the smooth transition of power, and thought it was a very good sign for the future of democracy in Russia.
Mr. Putin told Mr. Clinton that they disagreed on some things -- specifically, Russia's policy towards the breakaway republic of Chechnya. In fact, today, on his first full day as acting president, Mr. Putin went to visit troops who have been fighting the Chechnyan rebels in the breakaway province. Mr. Putin, however, specifically referred to their agreement on what he called "the core principles." And he specifically reaffirmed his commitment to the core principle of democracy.
This was a very reassuring statement to U.S. officials, who acknowledge that they are a little apprehensive about this new Russian leader, but that apprehension really is because they don't know him too well. But they were very pleased that he said that.
Mr. Clinton did have a very strong personal relationship with Boris Yeltsin, and they are hoping that he will be able to develop the same sort of relationship with Mr. Putin.
Chris Black, CNN, reporting live from the White House.
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