DATE=7/8/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA - POLITICS (L) NUMBER=2-264195 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: In his first state-of-the-nation address Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out his plans for a strong, centralized Russia that supports democracy and market reforms but also prioritizes national interests. Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports his 50-minute speech, delivered to Russian lawmakers, judges, and cabinet members, comes as Mr. Putin tries to pass controversial legislation to strip regional officials of their powers. TEXT: The crux of President Putin's message is that Russia needs a strong central state to solve the nation's economic troubles and protect democratic freedoms. ///Act Putin in Russian in full and fade under/// He explains, "the only choice for Russia is to be a strong country, confident in itself, not fighting other strong states, but working with the world community." He said Russia needed a pragmatic foreign policy, but must prioritize national interests. Mr. Putin asked the assembled lawmakers, in his words, "will we be able to survive as a nation if we constantly depend on foreign credits and the goodwill of stronger economic states?" Much of his speech was devoted to the need for the Kremlin to regain many of the powers that were granted to Russia's regional leaders during the Yeltsin era. Chechnya was cited as one example where the Kremlin had lost control of its territory. ///Second Act Putin in Russian in full and fade under/// He says, "Chechnya has become a center in Russia for the expansion of international terrorism." In his address Mr. Putin called media freedom an "unshakeable value of Russian democracy." But he blamed powerful businessmen who own media outlets, not the state, for censoring and controlling the press. His speech also included an attack on corruption, and gave a grim account of Russia's economic situation. ///Third Act Putin in Russian in full and fade under/// He says, "Russia's economic weakness is a serious problem. The growing gap between the advanced nations and Russia is pushing us into the group of Third World countries." /// OPT /// He pointed out disturbing health and life expectancy statistics that show Russia could lose up to one-seventh of its population within 15 years. Mr. Putin said, "the survival of the nation is under threat." /// End Opt /// President Putin said economic priorities included lowering taxes, ending preferential treatment and state intervention into businesses, and fighting what he called "the arbitrariness of bureaucrats and the rash of criminals." ///Fourth Act Putin in Russian in full and fade under/// He says, "We do not have a federal state, we have a decentralized state." Mr. Putin's repeated promises to re-establish Kremlin control over Russia's 89 regions have created discord between the two houses of Russia's parliament but have won wide support from among the Russian populace. (Signed) Neb/ec/dw/plm 08-Jul-2000 07:40 AM EDT (08-Jul-2000 1140 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .