Putin expects his visit to Salekhard to be substantiated by specific solutions

President Vladimir Putin has said his visit to Salekhard (capital of the Yamal-Nenets autonomy in North-western Siberia) will be substantiated by specific solutions to the problems facing Russia's northern areas.

"I do not want today's and yesterday's meetings in Salekhard to be regarded as historic, as the search for specific solutions may, thereby, recede into the background. We held routine meetings, which must be substantiated by administrative and legislative solutions," President Putin said in closing remarks at a meeting with representatives of Russia's northern peoples in Salekhard.

Mr Putin said Russia was a large country, which was facing a great many problems, while a variety of solutions was being advanced. "However, such diversity must help us choose the best possible solutions," said Mr Putin. He added that MPs must take a more responsible approach to drafting laws.

"They should not wait until their bill is voted down, but work more strenuously to ensure the quality, efficiency of laws," the president said replying to one of the speakers.

"I am aware of how decisions are drafted in the government and the Duma. They cannot often be qualified as quality decisions. They are often legally confusing and even contain factual mistakes," said Mr Putin.

The president urged that the government should find a solution to the problem of war veterans' privileges, the one that would not affect veterans.

"Veterans' privileges is one of the most acute problems today," emphasised the president. Veterans must not be affected under any circumstances.

"The government must find a solution that would not affect veterans. Such a solution can be found in the current economic and budget realities," believes Mr Putin.

Mr Putin urged to improve veterans' wellbeing, make their status more socially equitable.

The problem of privileges is correlated with that of housing benefits.

In comments on the speech by Nikolai Apushkin, a member of Karelia's war veterans committee, who spoke out against replacing privileges by monetary compensations, Mr Putin said veterans in different regions treated privileges differently.

"In villages and small towns, for example, I often heard veterans say: 'Give me money instead of privileges. I'd rather buy something tasty to eat on it as I have no telephone and do not need other privileges either'," said Mr Putin.

"The full package of privileges is used by as little as 10% of those entitled, while 90% of privileges is used utterly inefficiently," said the president.

The president believes the peaceful coexistence of peoples with different cultural traditions and of different religions in Russia's North is an example for other regions.

"The Russian Orthodox Church and representatives of other traditional religions have been working hard in the North promoting the traditions of friendship and mutual respect, which have always been characteristic of the people inhabiting the North, i.e. the peoples of different ethnic origins and religious beliefs. This is a good example for other Russian regions," said the president.

"The North is a severe environment where people irrespective of their social and cultural belonging join hands against difficulties," said Mr Putin.

"This is the tradition to be nurtured. For my part, I would like to assure that the government will do everything to support you," the president said as addressing representatives of the northern ethnic communities.

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