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Russia: Ivanov Defends Chechnya Campaign At Council Of Europe

Strasbourg, 27 January 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said today that Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya aims to restore the rule of law and human rights in the breakaway republic. He vowed Russia would pursue the campaign to what he called "the bitter end." Speaking in Strasbourg to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Ivanov said Russia will not accept any attempt to push it out of the Caucasus or to divide the region into traditional spheres of influence. Nor, he says, will Russia give up what he called its historic "stabilizing role" in the Caucasus.

Ivanov told parliamentarians from the Council of Europe's 41 member states that Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya is "a purely anti-terrorism operation." He rejected the use of the terms "war" or "conflict" to describe the action.

Ivanov spoke during the assembly's day-long, urgent debate on Chechnya. The assembly is due to vote later today on a draft resolution demanding that Russia stop attacks on civilians and open ceasefire talks with Chechen authorities. An assembly report says that Russia's failure to meet the demands by April will "inevitably necessitate" a review of Russia's membership in the Council of Europe.