Russian President Yeltsin returned home early today from a European summit after President Clinton and other foreign leaders voiced their disapproval of his policy towards the breakaway province of Chechnya. He did, however, say he would allow a European review of the region despite earlier insistence that the war-torn region is an internal matter.
Russian officials, however deny that his abrupt departure was any show of defiance towards the criticism. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said Yeltsin had returned to Moscow “in a good mood,” and that reports of a walkout were nonsense.
Yeltsin had earlier told world leaders at the open meeting for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that they “have no right to criticize Russia for Chechnya.” He repeated his determination not to enter into talks with the rebels, saying “there will be no negotiations with bandits and murderers.”
After Yeltsin left the summit, the Russian delegation did indicate a willingness to allow European observers into combat areas.
Yeltsin was present when President Clinton warned Russia not to allow the attacks against Chechnya to become an “endless cycle of violence” during his address to the meeting.
Clinton said he and European leaders worried that attacks against the region, that reportedly have injured “ordinary Chechens who are not part of the terror or the resistance” to Russian rule.
Chechen authorities claim more than 4,100 civilians have been killed in Russian air and artillery strikes since August. More than 211,600 refugees have streamed out of Chechnya into neighboring Russian republics, according to the Interfax news agency.
Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said on Tuesday that she was disturbed by “serious violations of human rights and of humanitarian law.”