Putin gives Clinton an icy rebuff on Chechnya

RUSSIA'S Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, gave an icy rebuff to Bill Clinton yesterday, effectively telling him to mind his own business after the US President criticised Moscow for endangering the lives of civilians in Chechnya.

Mr Clinton's speech, coinciding as it did with news that an international monetary fund (IMF) loan to Russia is being delayed, was interpreted by Moscow as interfering in its internal affairs. Mr Putin hit back immediately.

Russia understood the West's concerns and Moscow was "ready to intensify political contact with reasonable people in Chechnya", he said. But then his tone turned colder. "If people in the West are really so concerned, let them use their influence not to put pressure on Russia but on the bandits to free their hostages". Kidnappers were still holding hostages, including citizens of Turkey, Israel and France, he said. Chechen terrorists openly posed before the world's television cameras. The Chechen authorities should hand them over to face trial. "Until these conditions are met, there is nothing to talk about".

The Prime Minister was more restrained in reacting to the news that the IMF was delaying loans to a number of former soviet republics and that in Russia's case, a new instalment of $640m (pounds 400m) would be held back. The delay would be a serious blow for Russia were it not for the fact that increased world oil prices are providing a temporary boost to Moscow's budget.

"The formal reason [for the delay] is that we have not met the IMF conditions. We do not agree," Mr Putin said. But privately, Russian government sources made a direct link between the IMF decision and Washington's stand over Chechnya. Russian commentators said the imposition of sanctions by the West could lead to a new Cold War. While supporting Mr Putin's policy in the Caucasus, the respected former prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, warned him of the danger of Russia becoming politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world.

The West has watched with concern since Moscow launched its "anti-terrorist operation" in Chechnya in September, following a spate of apartment block bombs in Russian cities. At the European Security Summit in Istanbul, Mr Clinton's call for a political solution fell on deaf ears as President Boris Yeltsin declared that nobody had the right to tell Russia how to deal with terrorists on its own territory.

What prompted Mr Clinton to step up his criticism of Moscow's behaviour and to suggest it would have consequences for relations with the West was the Russian army message to residents of Grozny, telling them they had until 11 December to leave the Chechen capital or be considered terrorists and face extermination. Mr Clinton said the ultimatum, communicated by leaflets dropped over Grozny on Monday, was cruel to the many elderly and infirm civilians who were simply not in a position to leave their shelters.

General Viktor Kazantsev, one of Russia's commanders in the area, seemed to back pedal slightly yesterday, saying "ultimatum" was not the word he would use to describe the text of the leaflet, which offered civilians safe passage down a humanitarian corridor. And journalists should not jump to the conclusion that the storming of Grozny was imminent. That went against his plan, he said, which involved the "minimum number of casualties".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever