Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 20

If PACE members thought that the Russian delegation might be contrite or thankful yesterday after its scrape with suspension, they were mistaken. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed satisfaction with the PACE vote results. He nonetheless repeated accusations that the organization harbors biases against Russia, telling reporters that Moscow believes “there is a prejudiced attitude in Europe” toward Russian military actions in Chechnya. Moreover, in a restatement of the argument he had made earlier in the day while defending Moscow, Ivanov told reporters: “What we have in Chechnya is no conflict. We are fighting terrorism and our stand is correct” (Reuters, AP, January 27).

Ivanov had also said earlier that Russia is fighting in Chechnya to restore the rule of law and human rights, and would pursue its policy there “to the bitter end” (AFP, January 27). It was unclear how PACE members might have squared that last statement with their demand that Russia seek an immediate ceasefire in the breakaway republic. Equally unclear was their reaction to Ivanov’s latest rendition of the now standard Russian fiction that the campaign in Chechnya is not an all-out war, but some sort of antiterrorist police action.

For those in Russia seeking some positive news about the Russian military operation in Chechnya, however, there were some uplifting remarks made yesterday in Washington. Yuri Demin, Russia’s chief military prosecutor, told reporters that the crime rate among troops serving in Chechnya has fallen an impressive 23 percent since operations began there. Acts of brutality perpetrated by Russian soldiers against each other (a widespread problem in the armed forces more generally) had, he added, all but disappeared. Indeed, he said, in Chechnya “we are mostly concerned by two types of crime among the military–carelessness with weapons and traffic violations.”

Demin blithely dismissed both reports of massacres against Chechen civilians allegedly carried out by Russian troops and Georgian allegations that Russian troops had sold weapons to Chechen rebels. He said that investigations in these areas had turned up no evidence of misdeeds (Itar-Tass, January 28). The Itar-Tass report did not say whether Demin had addressed–or whether Russian authorities are investigating–allegations made last week by Human Rights Watch. The New York-based human-rights group charged on January 20 that Russian soldiers have been raping Chechen women in areas of Chechnya controlled by Russian forces. The group apparently based its allegations on interviews conducted by a team of investigators in Ingushetia and emphasized that “rape is a war crime, and these allegations about rape in Chechnya are very serious” (Human Rights Watch, Russian Federation–2000 World Report Chapter).