TITLE=RUSSIA / CHECHNYA (L UPDATE)
INTRO: Russia has brushed aside the outpouring of
international outrage at its five-day "leave or die"
ultimatum to Chechens in Grozny, calling it --
counterproductive. Moscow correspondent Peter
Heinlein reports newly arrived refugees from the rebel
capital are asking for an extension of the deadline.
TEXT: As expressions ranging from concern to
condemnation poured in from around the world, Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin stood firm. Mr. Putin, who
has seen his popularity ratings soar from zero to the
top of public opinion polls in recent months,
dismissed the foreign pressure as being well-
intentioned, but misguided.
///// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /////
He says -- if foreign governments are concerned, let
them pressure not just Russia, but also the bandits.
And foreign ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin
called foreign criticism -- counterproductive and
harmful to both sides.
The avalanche of international concern was touched off
when Russian planes dropped leaflets warning residents
to get out of the Chechen capital by Saturday or risk
/// OPT /// President Clinton was one of the first to
speak out, saying Russia would pay a heavy price if it
destroys Grozny's civilian population. Britain,
France, Italy, and the U-N refugee agency issued
similarly strong statements. The European Union
warned it might impose economic sanctions on Russia at
a summit in Helsinki later this week. /// END OPT ///
In an attempt to stem the tide of foreign criticism,
the military commander in charge of Chechnya
operations, Viktor Kazantzev, backed away from the
ultimatum. He said the "leave or face death" leaflets
were intended only as a warning.
/// KAZANTZEV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER ///
He says -- there was no ultimatum to civilians, only a
warning to bandits to change their minds and lay down
Russian commanders say they have opened a corridor to
allow safe passage for those wishing to escape Grozny.
But reports from the war zone suggest few, if any,
people are using it.
The ITAR-Tass news agency says newly arrived Chechen
refugees in neighboring Ingushetia are pleading for an
extension of the Saturday deadline. The Tass dispatch
said most people still in the city are not aware of
the ultimatum, because high winds blew away the
Ingushetia's president, Ruslan Aushev, says as many as
40-thousand civilians are still in Grozny, which in
pre-war days had a population of 300-thousand. He
predicts large numbers will die if the bombing threat
is carried out.
But Russian officials say the number of non-combatants
in the rebel capital is probably no more than 15-
/// REST OPT ///
Even though public support for the war has remained
solid within Russia, the latest ultimatum has prompted
a few criticisms. Former Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov cautioned that Russia should take care not to
isolate itself politically from the west.
The fiercest criticism came from the Russian
Association of Soldiers' Mothers, which issued a
statement Tuesday calling the threat of wholesale war
on Grozny -- tantamount to genocide of the Chechen
07-Dec-1999 13:25 PM EDT (07-Dec-1999 1825 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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