On the day preceding his State-of-the-Nation speech, Putin held an approximately three-hour-long meeting with representatives of the Chechen diaspora residing in Moscow, as well as with key pro-Moscow Chechen officials from Djohar (Grozny). Among those present at the meeting were Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the Chechen interim administration; the elected Russian State Duma deputy representing Chechnya, Aslambek Aslakhanov; and the appointed representative for Chechnya to the Russian Council of Federation, Akhmed Zavgaev. Leading Chechen diaspora businessmen in attendance were: Abubakar Arsamakov, president of the Moscow Industrial Bank; Musa Bazhaev, head of the “Alliance” Group; the [pro-Moscow] chairman of the State Council of Chechnya, Malik Saidullaev; and the former deputy chairman of the Government of National Rebirth of Chechnya, Abdulla Bugaev (Kavkaz.strana.ru, April 17).
Putin began his comments to the diaspora Chechens by remarking, “First, I would like to hear your point of view, though, of course, I also have my own opinion.” He then proposed that the participants in the meeting express their own opinions on “how to make the life of people in Chechnya dignified.” He noted that those in the room had achieved success in life by the use of peaceful means. Putin then asserted that the overwhelming majority of the Chechen people were tired of war, of cleansing operations, and of terrorist acts, and that they desired a peaceful life. “The institutes of the Russian Federation,” he stressed, “offer all possibilities for that” (Kavkaz.strana.ru, April 17).
“If we address the situation in, say, Afghanistan,” Putin continued, “then there, in essence, extremist forces [the Taliban] occupied Afghanistan and controlled the Afghan people, but you and I know that those who commanded there, or at least those who determined the policies, were to a significant extent foreigners [Arabs]. But what happened here with us? People [Chechens] did not spare their own people…. But we will hope that all of that is gradually receding into the past.” Putin then reaffirmed his strong support for Akhmad Kadyrov and his pro-Moscow Chechen administration (Rosinformtsentr, April 17).
One of the Chechen entrepreneurs present in the room, the Musa Bazhaev, declared enthusiastically, “We support the president of Russia, and that means we should unite also around any candidate for the post of head of Chechnya whom Putin chooses.” Noting that the issue of investment in the Chechen economy by members of the diaspora had been discussed, Usman Masaev, president of the Chechen Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, recalled that, over the past year, Chechen businessmen had invested some US$10 million in the republic’s economy by reviving, for example, bread and sugar plants and two distilleries. Bazhaev pledged that, for his part, he would rebuild the central maternity hospital in the Chechen capital. Banker Abubakar Arsamakov, however, warned that “full-scale investments in the Chechen economy are possible only after the final restoration of law and order in the republic.” He added that funding of the Chechen economy should be “absolutely transparent” and noted that much attention had been paid to this issue during the meeting with Putin (Interfax, April 17).