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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin: Strong State Will Stop Extremists

In a carefully edited interview shown Monday on ORT television, acting President Vladimir Putin reinforced his message of the need for a "strong state" to provide for Russia's security and economic growth.

The interview on the country's largest television station showed Putin dressed casually in a sweater and appeared to be part of a new, more public presidential campaign.

Putin hailed the taking of Grozny as a "turning point" in the Chechnya campaign, but said it does not mean that violence in the area will suddenly stop. "Clearly, we may be facing cases of violence and armed fighting for quite a prolonged period of time, but it will be something radically different than what we faced when large formations numbering several thousand people invaded Dagestan," he said.

Putin praised the role of pro-government media in supporting the military operation in the North Caucasus, saying that it was hard to predict the "reaction of the public" when military action erupted in Dagestan, and said that taking radical steps to solve the problem required "courage" on his part.

Today, he said, "we [the government and media] have to prevent the promotion of the thesis about excessive casualties, which would damage society's morale." This theory played a role in Russia's defeat in the previous war, he said, and someone "is trying to play this card now."

Putin said he viewed the anti-Russian rebellion in Chechnya as "only a fragment" of a greater "general struggle for the re-making of the world" on the part of "extremist forces," particularly in Central Asia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

"If extremist forces manage to get a hold in the Caucasus, this infection may spread up the Volga River [where there are large predominantly Moslem areas], spread to other republics, and we will either face the full Islamization of Russia, or we will have to agree to Russia's division into several independent states," Putin said.

Western leaders, Putin said, have failed to comprehend the depth of the problem. "We are not simply disappointed in the position of the West," he said. "We think that the direct political and economic support of Russia's struggle against international extremism is in the national interest of the vast majority of the Western countries."

Putin portrayed himself as a guarantor of political stability in Russia and said a strengthened state would inevitably cause a growth in foreign investment.

Putin singled out Russia's relations with the World Bank for special praise and said Russia valued the International Monetary Fund as an "expert" organization with a goal of "integrating" Russia's economy into the world economy.

He said a strong state would also act as "an instrument to guarantee the rights and liberties of the individual."