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Russia: Putin Meets EU Leaders To Discuss Chechnya

Moscow, 7 April 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin met with top European Union officials in Moscow today and said Russia remains interested in developing ties with the organization. But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said before the meeting that Russia should investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Chechnya and allow international observers into the breakaway republic. Yesterday, the Council of Europe began the process of suspending Russia's membership in the organization, which is not related to the EU. Russian officials today sharply criticized the council's parliamentary assembly for voting in favor of suspending Russia unless it stops the war and starts peace talks with the Chechens.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said today that the council was misled by Chechen separatists and by assembly members who harbor Cold War stereotypes. "Unfortunately, the parliamentary assembly followed those deputies who, from our point of view, still live under stereotypes of the Cold War," he said.

The assembly lifted Russia's voting rights, but the 40 other governments in the Council of Europe must approve the suspension before it takes place.