This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Sept. 7, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Thousands of Russians outraged over the bloody school hostage massacre took to the streets outside the Kremlin today. Meantime, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with reporters behind closed doors yesterday and scoffed at the suggestion he negotiate with Chechen rebels.
Here's what he said: "Why don't you meet Usama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or the White House, engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace? Why don't you do that?"
Our next guest was inside yesterday's meeting with President Putin. Joining us from Moscow is Eileen O'Connor, a former Moscow bureau chief and current president of the International Center for Journalists.
EILEEN O'CONNOR, PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR JOURNALISTS: Hi, Greta. Nice to see you, hear you again.
VAN SUSTEREN: Eileen, what was the occasion that you met with President Putin yesterday? And how long was the meeting.
O'CONNOR: Well, the meeting was extraordinary in that it was 3 hours and 45 minutes. I was invited to a conference in Russia with journalists, academics and Russian officials, and it was a two-day conference outside of Moscow designed to really talk about the state of Russian reform, Russian political reform, as well as security issues. But it was highly unusual, we thought, that he would even meet with us, given the circumstances. But he clearly was on a mission. He had a message he wanted to deliver to the West and to the United States.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what is that message that he wanted to deliver to us?
O'CONNOR: Well, basically, what he was certainly wanting to say was to stop calling these people freedom fighters and start calling them international terrorists. No matter what Russia's policy in the past toward Chechnya -- and he apologized for some of it but didn't apologize for any of his actions -- he said that this now a not a separatist movement in Chechnya, it's moved to an international terrorist operation designed to destabilize all of Russia and that the United States and the West better get behind them in fighting this terrorist threat to Russia because, he says, if they succeed in igniting ethnic conflicts around Russia and destabilizing Russia, Russia is a nuclear power, that makes it a very dangerous, very volatile situation. He said at one point, if these people were to come to power in Chechnya, then they could come to power in your country.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's the reaction, if you know, in Russia of this video inside the school, taken before all these children and parents and teachers died?
O'CONNOR: It's pretty horrific. I mean, basically, people have already been horrified by the scenes of carnage. But now it's even more horrific, having seen these people unwittingly sitting in the gymnasium, not knowing, of course, what the carnage was to become. But as you can see in that video, there's these low-hanging wires stretched from the basketball hoops between these bombs. And I'm being told by people who were in Beslan and people here that the theory is that one of the hostage takers, one of these terrorists themselves actually tripped one of those wires, accidentally bumped it, setting off the first explosion and this whole series of events.
The people here are just horrified and sickened. I mean, you've seen hundreds of funerals, and women and fathers just wailing in grief and burying their dead. I mean, people have been really, really moved by the pictures. But I will say this, Greta. Izvestia, one of the main newspapers, was slammed for showing pictures over the weekend of some of the dead bodies of these children. In fact, its editor was fired. So it's going to be interesting to see if these pictures that were taken inside the gym were actually sanctioned and if NTV was really told that they could show these pictures. Right now, the media is very much controlled here.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is President Putin going to do, crack down?
O'CONNOR: That's really difficult to tell. But what he was basically saying to the West is, "Don't question us going on in the future. Your idea of democracy is not necessarily right for Russia and if we have to alter the approach and the path to democracy for the sake of security, that's what we're going to do."
VAN SUSTEREN: And so is our relationship going to improve or get worse with Putin?
O'CONNOR: I think it's going to depend on the statements by the United States. I mean, I think he's going to be very encouraged by that statement of Mr. Rumsfeld. But the problem here is that what he's asking for from the West is a carte blanche for his policies towards his own citizens and I think that's going to be tough for any administration to do, especially if he starts to crack down.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Eileen O'Connor, thank you. Nice to see you, Eileen.
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