In his prepared statement, Yeltsin reiterated that Chechnya was an “internal matter,” but he claimed Russia was being forthcoming by allowing observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to visit the region. Once again, he tried to link Russia’s experience in Chechnya with something in the US, this time, the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City. In response to a question, Yeltsin was more blunt if less honest. He said that there are “no armed actions in Chechnya” now, only internal troops engaged in the “confiscation of weapons” from “several small bandit formations.” And he argued that the primary task ahead was rebuilding the damaged cities and villages and installing a democratic regime there. In response, Clinton said in his opening remarks that the US side had expressed its “strong concern” about Chechnya and wants the “matter” concluded as quickly as possible, a statement that the Russians may take as an invitation to use even more force in the short term. Later, Clinton remarked that “civilian casualties” and “the prolongation of the fighting” in Chechnya had affected Europe–curiously, he did not say the US–in a negative way. He did note that Washington was concerned about the fate of Fred Cuny, the American relief worker who has been missing in Chechnya since April 9. But in an apparent effort to defuse the Chechen issue, both leaders spoke about the need for joint efforts to combat terrorism, again a statement that Moscow is likely to read as permitting more repression in the North Caucasus.
Uniting A Lot On NATO.