On December 6, Russia's military command delivered an ultimatum to the Chechens who remain in the besieged city of Grozny. "Those who remain in Grozny" after December 11 "will be viewed as terrorists and bandits and will be destroyed by artillery and aviation." The statement added that a safety corridor will be maintained until December 11 for civilians wishing to leave Grozny. Leaflets conveying this information were air-dropped over Grozny.
As many as 50,000 residents were in Grozny on December 6. Most of them are believed to have not yet evacuated because they are too old, sick, and/or unable to afford the cost of transportation to leave the city. Furthermore, one woman interviewed by the international media said that the air-dropped leaflets had been blown away by heavy winds and many residents, many of whom are Russians, were unaware of the ultimatum.
The Russian ultimatum is a humanitarian outrage. It has been condemned by world leaders and inevitably, will have severe consequences on Russia's relations with the international community. Russia, despite the ultimatum, remains responsible for the lives and security of all civilians remaining in Grozny as well as for the provision of emergency aid and shelter--directly or through international organizations--for those who choose to evacuate the city. However, the immediate need today is to preserve the lives of civilians still remaining in Grozny.
RI therefore urges that, if the Russians cannot be dissuaded from proceeding with this act, the international community, and especially the United States government, demand that:
-- Russian shelling and bombing of Grozny cease immediately and for the remainder of the evacuation period.
-- Russia allow neutral organizations such as OSCE, UNHCR, and ICRC to enter Grozny to organize transportation for those wishing to evacuate the city and provide emergency aid for all civilians.
-- The security of a safety corridor and the safe evacuation of civilians from Grozny be monitored by neutral international organizations, given the understandable lack of faith of the Chechens in Russian security guarantees.