Civilian exodus from Grozny gathers momentum

The remaining residents of Grozny, whose number is estimated at between 15,000-40,000, began leaving the city on 6 December in response to Russian warnings to do so by 11 December or face intensified bombardment, Reuters reported. The BBC World Service on 7 December quoted a senior Russian military official as saying that the airforce will use 200-pound bombs containing ignitable gas to destroy the nuclear bunkers in Grozny where the remaining defenders are believed to be hiding. Turan on 7 December quoted a Chechen representative in Baku as reporting that as 37 people have died in Grozny following a chemical weapon attack the previous day. LF

U.S. President Bill Clinton said on 6 December that Russia may "pay a heavy price" for its actions in Chechnya "with each passing day, sinking more deeply into a morass that will intensify extremism and diminish its own standing in the world." Clinton was responding to Russia's plans to bomb all those who fail to leave Grozny. He added that "I am deeply disturbed by reports that suggest that innocent Chechens will continue to bear the brunt of this war and not the militants Russia is fighting." The same day, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been making almost daily telephone calls to her counterpart, Igor Ivanov, to express the U.S.'s "strong opposition to a military solution." The Carnegie Endowment's David Kramer told RFE/RL's Washington bureau that the Clinton administration's response was "very belated" since "indiscriminate bombing has been going on since early October." JAC


EU Foreign Ministers adopted a statement in Brussels on 6 December condemning as "unacceptable" Moscow's ultimatum to Grozny residents to leave the city by 11 December, AP reported. They further expressed "deep concern" at Russia's intensifying military campaign in Chechnya. Also on 6 December, a British government spokesman appealed to the Russian leadership to take all possible measures to protect the civilian population. In Washington, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman James Foley told journalists that the U.S. is "deeply disturbed" by the Russian ultimatum and urges Moscow not to follow through with it. LF


Speaking in Moscow on 6 December, First Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Valerii Manilov argued that the warning to residents to leave Grozny by 11 December does not constitute an ultimatum but rather a "psychological measure and an act of humanity," Interfax reported. He said that the Russian federal command is doing everything possible to avoid civilian losses and that the safe corridor opened for civilians to flee Grozny will not be bombed or shelled. Manilov added that a tent camp will be set up in Znamenskoe where displaced persons from Grozny will be given shelter, food, and medical care. LF


A delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference headed by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told journalists in Moscow on 6 December after talks with senior Russian officials that Russia's military campaign in Chechnya is not an appropriate response to the threat to Russia's territorial integrity, Reuters reported. Before leaving for the North Caucasus on 7 December, Kharrazi stressed the OIC's concern over the number of civilian victims of the fighting. He said the OIC advocates an immediate cease-fire, the return of displaced persons to their homes, a universal amnesty, and the holding of political talks, according to ITAR-TASS. LF


Speaking in Moscow on 6 December, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii again called for the beginning of political negotiations on Chechnya in tandem with the ongoing hostilities in order to minimize both troop losses and civilian casualties, Interfax reported. Yavlinskii agreed that "terrorists must be brought to justice," but he added that civil accord in Chechnya will not be possible without the support of the local population. Neither the Russian nor the Chechen leadership officially responded to Yavlinskii's earlier peace proposals for Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 1999). Also on 6 December, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that "we cannot pull the army out of Chechnya now and offer the chance of stopping hostilities," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. He said that all those Chechen fighters who do not surrender their arms "must be destroyed." LF

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