Brussels, March 14 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Minister for
Emergency Situations, Sergei Shoygu, has signed a letter of intent on
conditions for cooperation between his ministry and NATO. Shoygu met
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and signed the letter this week
during Shoygu's first visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Our Brussels correspondent says the letter is expected to be
followed soon by the signing in Moscow of a memorandum of
understanding. and the correspondent says the text is expected to
outline areas of cooperation between Shoygu's Emergency Situations
Ministry and NATO. The focus is expected on humanitarian assistance
and reaction to natural disasters.
Next year, plans call for a high-level meeting in Moscow among
various emergency planning departments to be arranged under NATO's
"Partnership For Peace" program.
Shoygu emphasized that all cooperation programs between his ministry
and NATO will take place under the direction of the United Nations.
Shoygu said, "you do not have to be a NATO member to work with NATO.
you could be a partner," he said.
Among the successes Shoygu claimed for his ministry is the
transporting of food and other humanitarian aid to former Yugoslavia.
Our correspondent notes that Russia's current Ambassador to
Brussels, Vitaly Churkin, was formerly the special presidential envoy
to former Yugoslavia and that Churkin was instruemental last year in
negotiating the dispatch of Russian troops to Bosnia to serve
alongside American solders in the NATO-led, peace-implementation
Our correspondent yesterday asked Shoygu about his ministry's role
in Chechnya. Shoygu said there had been a series of concrete
measures, most notably sending food and medicines, opening hospitals
and "generally, trying to re-establish normal living conditions."
"Believe me," said Shoygu, "we are (the ministry) not very happy
with this kind of work." "I mean," he said, "there are enough
problems related to natural disasters, and we could certainly use
what we have for coping with these."
Shoygu yesterday also met the European Union's (EU) Commissioner
Responsible for Humanitarian Aid, Emma Bonino. Bonino asked that
Moscow permit humanitarian aid for Chechnya to flow more freely.
since the Kremlin's military intervention in Chechnya began, the EU
has allocated more than 20-million dollars in humanitarian aid to
Chechnya. A field assessment team was recently dispatched to Moscow
Moscow insists all aid must pass through official channels.
Bonino cited examples of harassment of european aid teams by Russian
soldiers and by pro-Russian authorities in Chechnya.