BOTLIKH, September 12. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with militiamen who took part in the hostilities in the Russian region of Dagestan in August-September 1999. Delivering a welcome speech and thanking them for the invitation, Putin raised a shot glass and downed it, remembering these events.
According to the president, the community of Botlikh is celebrating a tragic but glorious anniversary of the militia’s combat operation 20 years ago.
Putin recalled that back then the Dagestanis stood against international terrorist groups together with the Russian Armed Forces and "not only defended their home region, their Dagestan, their community but also, most importantly, showed the whole country what it means for people to unite in the face of a common danger."
Putin added that people show their best qualities in critical circumstances. "When you faced such a situation here, you showed what you are capable of, what our entire country is capable of, you set a very good example. Thank you from the bottom of my heart," Putin said.
The Russian leader underlined that it is hard to congratulate the militiamen on this date because many people died back then. Nevertheless, he pointed out that he would like to pay tribute to the bravery and courage of these people.
The president said that he had time to visit a memorial dedicated to the people of the Botlikh District who died in the Second World War, in Afghanistan, in the hostilities in August-September 1999 and other local conflicts.
During his visit to the memorial, Putin recalled the 1999 events and emphasized that the most important thing for the entire Russia back then was to show international gangs that people do not support them. "This is worth its weight in gold that you, men, women and even children, were taking part. It was important not only for Dagestan, for these rough people, it was important for the entire Russia," Putin said.
He also urged to treasure and respect the memory of the 1999 events in Botlikh.
Putin said that it was after his meeting with militia in Botlikh in 1999 that he believed that the terrorist groups would be eliminated.
1999 events in Botlikh
On August 7, 1999, armed gangs intruded from neighboring Chechnya into the Tsumada and Botlikh districts and then into the Novolaksky District of Dagestan. Locals were the first to resist the terrorists. Militants had been squeezed out only by mid-September and a large-scale counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus region ensued. The 1999 hostilities left 226 servicemen, 53 police officers, 25 militiamen and 108 local civilians dead.