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Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin Addresses Russian People

Aired March 26, 2000 - 4:16 p.m. ET


ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: We want to return to our top story for you now, the Russian elections. Acting President Vladimir Putin, with 40 percent of the vote counted already, is about to make a statement. Let's go to Moscow and take a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, ACTING RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): ... for me as acting president, then it's really good night, because I wanted the electors to come to the polls and we can say that this really happened and this is the main thing now. And I repeat again, I am satisfied with this about the final results. About all the candidates and the outcome of the elections, than we shall learn about it later -- a bit later.

QUESTION (through translator): How do you see preliminary results?

PUTIN (through translator): It seems to me that the experts that made the forecasts, well, they are real experts and we must pay due to them, and they hit the point. They seem to hit the point. We shall see the final results. And it seems to me what we have seen on the pages of serious publications really reflects the reality as it is.

QUESTION (through translator): What about the militants in Chechnya?

PUTIN (through translator): It is quite clear that they failed. It is quite clear and exactly they have failed. I believe for all of us, for the Chechen republic and for the -- and for Russia it was of great importance, of principal importance that the inhabitants of Chechen republic have an opportunity to vote for the future president of Russia and this will happen, they did vote.

We can only regret that in spite of our of proposals, foreign observers failed to go to Chechnya. Together with Alexander Visnikoff (ph), the representatives of international organizations already visited Chechen republic and saw the preparation process. That is positive.

As I see it, I spoke about it in the daytime and I repeat here again, it is important even from the practical aspect that people if they have voted for the future president, then they have the right not to ask, but to demand from him no subjunctive moods. Those who have voted for him demand attention to the public whoever is elected president of Russia.

I mean, that part of the -- of those living in Chechen republic have voted, then the president gets commitments to this territory of Russia. And three, the very fact of voting or polling in Chechnya during this presidential race shows that the overwhelming majority of Chechen people see the republic as part of Russian federation. This is of principal importance and we're glad.

QUESTION (through translator): (OFF-MIKE). Communists have gotten a substantial number of votes. Could you comment?

PUTIN (through translator): This means that there is a big proportion of the population of Russia who are not satisfied with the existing state of things. I -- it means that the protest electorate is substantial in Russia.

I want to draw attention to the fact that the communists do it because they have a lot -- they don't have so many opportunities, and they do it. But nonetheless, this big proportion of population votes regularly for them. This shows that the policy of the authorities must be more balanced, it must reflect the real processes under way in Russia, and it must be geared to improve the living standards of rank- and-file people.

It is important that rank-and-file people feel in everyday life the advantages of the policy pursued by the authorities, and then there will be no need whatsoever to fight against communists as a party.

It is important not to fight against communists. It is important to vote for the people, for the electors, and I think this is possible.

QUESTION (through translator): (OFF-MIKE)

PUTIN (through translator): Absolute no difference. I don't know who invents those things. Can you really name or say where recently in the first round there was a victory? In what country? In no country there was a victory in the first round to the best of my memory. If there is a victory in the first, even with half percent, then I see it is just a great credit on the part of the population to the winner.

And generally speaking, it makes no difference the first round or the second round. I repeat, if it is the first round, then it gives us more moral responsibilities.

QUESTION (through translator): (OFF-MIKE)

PUTIN (through translator): I think that this question will be good when we have clear results of the elections. So far, we don't have the clear results of the elections.

QUESTION (through translator): You are tired today, aren't you? Or...

PUTIN (through translator): No, I had some rest. I had rest, and I as I planned, I went to the countryside and I was glad to speak to people. The people there are very open, very, very open and sincere: real people there in the countryside, real workers, real workers who think about daily life. Though, of course, they are very -- substantially politically active. They have a clear idea of what is going on in this country.

And as to the leaders of the farm I was there, we had horses. We had horse racing, and we visited the steam baths.

You know, I'm strong enough to survive that. But they're not -- they're not -- I was not in the Moscow region. It is 120 kilometers away from Moscow: a small farm, altogether 370 workers, 400 pensioners. Just a rank-and-file agricultural economy.

HALL: You are hearing acting President Vladimir Putin giving responses to reporters in Moscow. The election's well under way: 40 percent of the votes counted at this point. He says he's still waiting for the results, but he characterized it as a really good night.

Let's go now to Mike Hanna, who's standing by in Moscow -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Andria, we heard acting President Vladimir Putin keeping his options open a little bit there. He said whether he wins in the first round or the second round, it doesn't really matter. If he does win in the first round, though, he says it gives him even greater responsibility.

Well, all of this about rounds, first rounds, runoff ballots, what it means is that Mr. Putin has to win 50 percent of the total vote plus one. This would give him an absolute majority and would mean that he would not go into a runoff ballot against the second- place challenger.

That second-place challenger at the moment is Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party. He has some 30 percent of the vote counted. This is with some 40 percent of the vote counted all over Russia.

Mr. Putin, however, has some 49 1/2 percent. That is just a half percentage point away from that 50 percent margin.

So it's a very, very close call, but Mr. Putin appears to be inching toward a total majority -- Andria.

HALL: Mike Hanna reporting live in Moscow. We know you'll keep us posted on the election results.



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