my dear ones, today I am wishing you New Year greetings
for the last time. But that is not all. Today I am addressing you for the
last time as Russian president. I have made a decision. I have contemplated
this long and hard. Today, on the last day of the outgoing century, I am
Many times I have heard it said: Yeltsin
will try to hold on to power by any means, he won't hand it over to anyone.
That is all lies. That is not the case. I have always said that I would
not take a single step away from the constitution, that the Duma elections
should take place within the constitutional timescale. This has happened.
And likewise, I would have liked the presidential elections to have taken
place on schedule in June 2000.
That was very important for Russia - we were
creating a vital precedent of a civilized, voluntary handover of power,
power from one president of Russia to another, newly elected one. And
yet, I have taken a different decision. I pauses am standing down. I
am standing down earlier than scheduled. I have realized that I have
to do this.
Russia must enter the new millennium with
new politicians, new faces, new intelligent, strong and energetic people.
As for those of us who have been in power for many years, we must go.
Seeing with what hope and belief people voted
during the Duma elections for a new generation of politicians, I understood
that I had done the main job of my life. Russia will never return to
the past. Russia will now always be moving forward. I must not stand
in its way, in the way of the natural progress of history.
Why hold on to power for another six months,
when the country has a strong person, fit to be president, with whom
practically all Russians link their hopes for the future today? Why should
I stand in his way? Why wait for another six months? No, this is not
me, this is not in my character.
Today, on this incredibly important day for
me, I want to say more personal words than I usually do. I want to ask
you for forgiveness, because many of our hopes have not come true, because
what we thought would be easy turned out to be painfully difficult. I
ask to forgive me for not fulfilling some hopes of those people who believed
that we would be able to jump from the grey, stagnating, totalitarian
past into a bright, rich and civilized future in one go.
I myself believed in this. But it could not
be done in one fell swoop. In some respects I was too naive. Some of
the problems were too complex. We struggled on through mistakes and failures.
At this complex time many people experienced upheavals in their lives.
But I want you to know that I never said this would be easy. Today it
is important for me to tell you the following. I also experienced the
pain which each of you experienced.
I experienced it in my heart, with sleepless
nights, agonizing over what needed to be done to ensure that people lived
more easily and better, if only a little. I did not have any objective
more important than that.
I am leaving. I have done everything I could.
I am not leaving because of my health, but because of all the problems
taken together. A new generation is taking my place, the generation of
those who can do more and do it better.
In accordance with the constitution, as I
go into retirement, I have signed a decree entrusting the duties of the
president of Russia to Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
For the next three months, again in accordance
with the constitution, he will be head of state. Presidential elections
will be held in three months' time. I have always had confidence in the
amazing wisdom of Russian citizens. Therefore, I have no doubt what choice
you will make at the end of March 2000.
In saying farewell, I wish to say to each
of you the following. Be happy. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness
and peace. Happy new year, happy new century, my dear people.