Russia demands total surrender by Chechens as refugee crisis grows

DESPITE INTENSIFYING Western criticism and an imminent European security summit, Russia insisted yesterday that only surrender by the insurgents would bring about an end to its military onslaught in Chechnya.

"If they [the guerrillas] lay down their arms and halt their action, things could end quickly," Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said as he arrived in Helsinki to discuss the European Union's "Northern Dimension", strengthening co-operation between Nordic and Baltic countries, and Russia.

The words of Mr Ivanov are a further sign Moscow is ready to continue its bombardment even as it sits down to next week's summit of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul, to be attended by both Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.

Yesterday brought no let-up in the offensive, as Russian jets bombed the capital, Grozny, as well as villages in the west of the breakaway region. The only hint of a breakthrough was a Russian news agency report that insurgents in Gudermes, Chechnya's second largest city, were seeking talks with a Russian commander.

But as the bombs rain down, the humanitarian crisis in and around Chechnya continues to grow, with some 200,000 refugees in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, and at least as many again uprootedwithin Chechnya itself. "The situation is not getting better, it is getting worse," the Finnish Foreign Minister, Tarja Halonen, said after meeting Mr Ivanov.

The increasing frictions have already turned the OSCE summit into a diplomatic minefield, with the West confronted with a dilemma: take retaliatory action against Moscow and risk losing what little backstage leverage it has, or continue to soft-pedal in the hope of obtaining at least minor concessions from the Russians.

Until yesterday, the latter had seemed the preferred course. But in the most blunt challenge to Moscow yet, senior officials from the French Foreign Ministry met Ilyas Akhmadov, the self-styled Chechen foreign minister - a step described in a Russian statement as "an unfriendly act" and "de-facto complicity with Chechen separatists and terrorists".

Russia's intransigence casts a dark shadow over plans for the signature of a European Security Charter at the 54-nation meeting in Turkey, and for agreement on an updated Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. Some diplomats say it would simply be impossible to sign a treaty limiting conventional weapons, when Moscow has violated it by massing over 100,000 troops in and around Chechnya and is conducting a full-scale war.

Another option is to go ahead and sign the new CFE deal, but to refuse to submit it for ratification until there is a negotiated solution to the Chechen war. A third possibility is to attach to the text a Russian declaration that it will normalise the situation as soon as it can.

The best hope, some officials believe, lies in the fact that President Yeltsin considers the meeting important enough to attend in person, despite his weak health. The OSCE has long been Russia's "favourite" European security forum, built on the principle of the sanctity of national borders - something that even Moscow's critics believe must be respected over Chechnya, juridically part of the Russian Federation.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
i100
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Sport
footballBut the Newcastle United midfielder's news has 'left his mistress furious'
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

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style