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Military

USIS Washington File

08 December 1999

Text: U.S. Statement on Chechnya to OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation

(Johnson says concerns rising over methods used by Russian military)
(960)
"Disturbing reports from Chechnya have raised further concerns about
the scale of violence as well as the operational methods that are
being employed by the Russian military," Ambassador David T. Johnson
told the Forum for Security Cooperation of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) December 8.
Johnson, the U.S. Representative to the OSCE, said that the United
States is "deeply disturbed" by reports that Russia has dropped
leaflets over Chechnya warning the residents of Grozny to leave the
city or be destroyed.
"We cannot accept the implication that the defeat of terrorist bands
requires the destruction of Grozny, to include the homes and business
of innocent civilians, as well as the infrastructure that sustains
them."
Johnson added that Russia's ultimatum to the citizens of Grozny "is
inconsistent with Russia's Code of Conduct commitments to ensure that
the use of force is 'commensurate' and that Russian armed forces 'take
due care to avoid injury to civilians or their property.'"
The United States calls on Russia "as a friend, not as an adversary,
to seek a political solution to the conflict in Chechnya," Johnson
said.
He also suggested that, "in the interest of transparency and making
possible a more objective understanding of what looks to us to be a
new situation," Russia fulfill its obligation to provide up-to-date
details on its "force disposition and military objectives."
He expressed the hope that OSCE Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek's
trip to the North Caucasus prove a step toward "a political solution
to this tragic series of events."
Following is the text of Johnson's statement:
(begin text)
U.S. MISSION TO THE OSCE
December 8, 1999
Statement on Chechnya
Delivered by Ambassador David T. Johnson to the Forum for Security
Cooperation, Vienna
Mr. Chairman, since our last meeting in this room, disturbing reports
from Chechnya have raised further concerns about the scale of violence
as well as the operational methods that are being employed by the
Russian military.
President Yeltsin stated last week that the second phase of operations
has been completed and that a third phase is beginning. That statement
was circulated by the Russian Federation's delegation on December 6.
We note that the Russian Vienna Document notification of October 28
addressed only the first phase of operations.
Moreover, recent Russian press reports describe a major escalation in
the fighting, which is now characterized by some as a full-scale war.
In the interest of transparency and making possible a more objective
understanding of what looks to us to be a new situation, we call on
Russia to fully comply with its Vienna Document commitment and to
notify up-to-date details on its force disposition and military
objectives.
An observation visit, as Russia promised in its October 28
notification, would also enhance all OSCE States' ability to assess
objectively the situation. The gradual normalization of conditions
that we have heard about in this forum argues for an observation visit
to take place in the near future. As we have said here before, we
question neither Russia's right nor responsibility to fight terrorism.
However, we remain deeply concerned with the means Russia has chosen
to do so.
We have repeatedly raised here and elsewhere concerns about the
indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force.
We are deeply disturbed by reports that Russia has dropped leaflets
over Chechnya warning the residents of Grozny to leave the city and
declaring that all who remain will be "destroyed."
We cannot accept the implication that the defeat of terrorist bands
requires the destruction of Grozny, to include the homes and business
of innocent civilians, as well as the infrastructure that sustains
them.
This method of operations would threaten the old, the infirm, and
others who cannot or are afraid to leave, who would likely die in the
thousands. The provision of prior warning in no way relieves Russia of
its obligation to differentiate between legitimate targets and
innocent civilians. Russia's ultimatum or, if you wish to parse words,
warning with a time limit, to the civilian residents of Grozny is
inconsistent with Russia's Code of Conduct commitments to ensure that
the use of force is "commensurate" and that Russian armed forces "take
due care to avoid injury to civilians or their property."
Last week, Germany, citing paragraphs 29 and 30 of the Code of
Conduct, questioned the adequacy of training for Russian troops so
that they understood fully their responsibilities to uphold
international humanitarian law. Russian forces' continued,
indiscriminate application of massive firepower against Grozny and
other population centers lend credence to our German colleagues'
concerns.
In his December 6 Human Rights Day speech, President Clinton said,
"Russia's fight against terrorism is right, but the methods being used
in Chechnya are wrong. And I am convinced they will be
counterproductive. Russia will pay a heavy price for those actions
with each passing day, sinking deeply into a morass that will
intensify extremism and diminish its own standing in the world."
We call on the Government of Russia, as a friend, not as an adversary,
to seek a political solution to the conflict in Chechnya, consistent
with its commitments in paragraph 19 of the Code of Conduct.
The scheduled visit of Chairman-in-Office Vollebaek to the North
Caucasus could prove to be an important step in the pursuit of a
political solution to the conflict. We look forward to that visit with
the hope and the expectation that it could become part of a political
solution to this tragic series of events.
Russia's OSCE partners stand ready to assist Russia in finding a
solution to the tragedy of Chechnya and in creating conditions for
stability, security, and economic prosperity in the region, as we all
affirmed at Istanbul.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State)



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