There would not have been a second campaign, if we had not been forced to undertake it. This is apparent. Independence was the point at issue during the first so-called Chechen campaign and eventually Russia accepted this formulation. I would even dare say now that the price was Russia’s national shame, yet we accepted it.
And what did we get? We got not an independent Chechen Republic, but a territory occupied by bandit groups and religious extremists, a territory that was used as the bridgehead for attacks on our country and for rocking it from the inside.
Putin interview with journalists from Nezavisimaya Gazeta, ORT and RTR. Interview 24 Dec 2000. Text published Nezavisimaya Gazeta 26 Dec 2000. Reprinted here.