Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov told reporters May 3 that Russia was prepared to hold talks with Chechen rebels, including on the subject of Chechnya’s status, but that independence for the republic was out of the question. He also deflected European criticism of Russia’s brutal military campaign in Chechnya with the assertion that Europe has not faced–as he suggested Russia has–terrorism of such dimensions that it needs to be suppressed with large-scale military actions. Primakov’s remarks came at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Strasbourg of foreign ministers from the Council of Europe. Danish foreign minister Niels Helveg Petersen, whose country currently holds the council’s rotating presidency, described Moscow’s as a "fairly constructive approach" to the conflict in Chechnya. He also criticized "atrocities committed by both sides and flagrant violations of human rights by Russian troops."
On another issue, the Council leadership suggested that Russia would face no sanctions for failing to meet commitments given to the Council that it would abolish capital punishment. Primakov said that Russia remained "committed to doing away with the death penalty," but suggested that it was politically inexpedient to do so in the near future. He also told council participants that after 1997 Russia would pay dues equal to those of the council’s largest member states. (Reuter, AP, Itar-Tass, May 3; Itar-Tass, May 4) A day earlier Primakov had called upon the Council to act more aggressively in countering what he alleged was the ill-treatment of Russians outside of Russia.
Russian Peacekeeping Forces Get Special Designation.