On September 1, the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported comments President Vladimir Putin made concerning Chechnya during an interview given to the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. In Putin’s opinion, Chechnya had, even before the current conflict, been turned into a criminal enclave because people who had nothing to do with the interests of the Chechen people had come to power in the republic. As a result of the war, Putin declared, large Chechen rebel units have now been exterminated and a socioeconomic restoration of the republic has begun. There remains, however, a need to crack down, he said, on organized crime in the republic. The main point for the future, he emphasized, is to prevent Chechnya from being used as a “springboard for attack on Russia” and the destabilization of Russia from within. As the situation in Chechnya matures, Putin predicted, Russia will increasingly resort to employing political means within the republic. He expressed a hope that republican parliamentary and presidential elections could be held in Chechnya in the not-too-distant future.