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Russia: Ivanov Accuses West Of Hypocrisy Over Chechnya

Moscow, 16 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov today accused Western governments of hypocrisy when they criticize Moscow's seven-week military campaign in Chechnya. Ivanov writes in the British daily the "Financial Times" that the West has said it is committed to fighting terrorism but has "conveniently forgotten" that Moscow is also battling terrorism in Chechnya. Moscow accuses Islamic militants based in Chechnya of responsibility for a series of deadly bomb blasts in Russian cities in September. Ivanov suggests instead that NATO actions in Kosovo and Western reaction to the Chechnya crisis are linked in a plan to create what he calls a "one-dimensional, NATO-centered world."

Earlier today, Ivanov said conditions will be favorable for more than 200,000 Chechens who fled to neighboring Ingushetia to return home before Christmas. He says "thousands" of refugees are already returning home daily.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko has accused the West of not backing Moscow's concern for the plight of the refugees. She said aid received from Germany, the EU, and the U.S. has been "insignificant."

The UN high commissioner for refugees, Sadako Ogata, is due to arrive in Moscow today for talks before leaving for Ingushetia to assess the refugee situation there.

Meanwhile, Russian positions around Grozny are being reinforced as air and artillery strikes on the Chechen capital intensify. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo says the operation will be carried out to its "logical conclusion."