Russia

Chechen rebels accuse U.N. of criminal indifference

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MOSCOW (Jul 30, 1996 00:41 a.m. EDT) -- Chechen rebels lambasted the United Nations on Monday for refusing to intervene in their 19-month civil war, accusing the world body of ignoring the killing of civilians at the hands of Russian troops.

The rebels issued a statement claiming the United Nations applies a double standard in which "Russia is always right, even if it is not," the Interfax news agency said.

The United States and all other major U.N. powers consider Chechnya to be part of Russia, and consequently an internal Russian problem. The U.N. charter restricts U.N. involvement in internal disputes unless they are deemed a threat to international peace.

For that reason, the United Nations has limited itself to humanitarian assistance in the southern Russian republic. Russia is a permanent Security Council member and could veto any political involvement in Chechnya.

"The passive or neutral stand taken by the United Nations toward today's genocide against the Chechen people could be considered a result of the negative qualities and mercenary interests of U.N. Secretary General (Boutros) Boutros-Ghali," the statement said.

More than 30,000 people have died in the war, most of them Chechen and ethnic Russian civilians.

President Boris Yeltsin promised an end to the war during his campaign for a second term this spring. But the peace process was shattered when Russian forces intensified attacks on rebel positions after Yeltsin's re-election July 3.

An international mediator said Monday that a meeting between a senior Russian commander and the rebel chief of staff, Aslan Maskhadov, could take place this week, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Tim Guldimann, head of the Chechnya mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told the news agency that Col. Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin, commander of the North Caucasus military district, and Maskhadov had agreed to meet within the next few days.

Unidentified gunmen fired on Maskhadov's car Monday near the southeastern town of Nozhai-Yurt, Interfax reported, citing Maskhadov's staff. He was unhurt, although one of his bodyguards was wounded.

No major fighting was reported Monday, but Russian positions came under fire 11 times since Sunday, a military command spokesman told Interfax. Six Russian soldiers were killed and 18 wounded. There were no reports of rebel casualties.

In western Chechnya, rebel forces continued a week-old drive to capture the town of Bamut, but were repulsed by Russian troops, government officials said. The town is a former Soviet missile base 35 miles southwest of the Chechen capital, Grozny.

In Moscow, railway officials said they were tightening security on the country's rail lines after the discovery of a bomb Sunday on tracks near the western Russian town of Smolensk.

It was the fourth explosive device found in train stations, cars and on tracks in the past 10 days. The one bomb that exploded damaged a train car but caused no injuries.

A man identifying himself as Chechen guerrilla leader Salman Raduyev, who was reported killed last spring but has since allegedly resurfaced, vowed Monday to keep using terrorism to achieve independence from Moscow.

Speaking to journalists in a mountain village in southeastern Chechnya, he said representatives of separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev came to see him Sunday and asked him to stop terrorist acts, but he refused, ITAR-Tass said.

Copyright =A9 1996 The Associated Press