Russia derides Council of Europe's 'Cold War' mentality over Chechen campaign

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The Independent Online

Russia angrily shrugged off a decision by the Council of Europe to suspend its voting rights and vowed yesterday to pursue its campaign to stamp out "terrorism" in Chechnya.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, rejected Thursday's decision by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, saying that it had been "misled by members who still think in terms of the Cold War".

He said Moscow regretted the decision "but will continue its policy of eradicating international terrorism, working out a political settlement in the Chechen republic and restoring constitutional order and human rights there".

Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, told top EU officials yesterday that he would present a plan next week for a Chechnya settlement, in a gesture to the West following the surprise decision by the parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg.

The assembly has lifted Russia's voting rights and proposed the suspension of Russian membership of the 41-member council, over human rights violations during the Chechnya war. The suspension of a country depends on the approval of ministers from the countries concerned.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy high representative, pressed Russia to change course, at a Kremlin meeting with Mr Putin yesterday. "The decision is a beginning, and it can be changed if the Russians act in an appropriate manner," Mr Solana stressed.

He urged Moscow to fulfil agreements to allow international organisations into Chechnya to investigate allegations of abuses against civilians: "I think with those few things everyone will be happy. It will be good for the Russian administration, for the Russian people and it would be good for the international community."

But Sergei Yastrzhembsky,the Kremlin's top spokesman on Chechnya, ruled out more visits by representatives of the council's assembly (PACE).

"The door has been shut," he told a news conference. "The visits of lords or other delegates under the aegis of PACE to the territory of the Chechen republic must be stopped."