Secretary-General discusses Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today held a "long and frank" telephone discussion with Russia's Foreign Minister on the latest developments in Chechnya.
Mr. Annan's discussions with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov included the protection of civilians and aid workers and enhanced humanitarian assistance, according to the Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard.

The Secretary-General has also discussed Chechnya with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin more than once over the past weeks, Mr. Eckhard said.

Earlier today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, issued a joint statement on Chechnya with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation for Europe's High Commissioner for National Minorities, Max van der Stoel.

The statement expressed their "profound concern" at the situation in Grozny following Russia's 6 December ultimatum that civilians leave the Chechen capital or risk injury or death from "indiscriminate bombardment."

In a separate statement issued Tuesday, Mrs. Robinson, had called the ultimatum "particularly disquieting," saying it would not only endanger the lives of the elderly and the infirm but also result in thousands more displaced persons.

"Russia has legitimate security concerns," said Mrs. Robinson, "but it is not appropriate to respond by violating people's human rights. International requirements for the protection of civilians in armed conflict are clear cut and must be respected."

The High Commissioner discussed the situation with the Russian Permanent Representative in Geneva yesterday and repeated her offer to send a personal envoy to the region.