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Russia: EU Leaders Criticize Chechen Campaign

Stockholm, 23 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- European Union leaders at a summit in Stockholm today reiterated their calls for Russia to seek a political solution to the conflict in Chechnya. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said EU states want a partnership with Russia -- but he warned that the EU remains dissatisfied with Moscow's handling of the Chechen conflict.

"We have from the EU side, of course, reiterated our concern over the situation in Chechnya and stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict. We have also underlined that a genuine partnership must be based on common values."

Likewise, the president of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine, said Russia was failing to meet its commitments to halt human rights abuses in its breakaway republic.

"We would like the commitments made by Moscow in regards to the European Union and within the framework of the UN Security Council to be respected, which is not the case. (We wish) that violations of human rights would stop."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who traveled to the Swedish capital to meet with the EU leaders, rejected the criticism.

Putin told a news conference that Moscow's decision to take military measures in Chechnya was correct and had prevented the conflict from spreading.

Putin also compared Chechen separatists to ethnic Albanian rebels in Macedonia. He urged the international community to follow Russia's example in suppressing armed insurgencies.

Earlier, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised EU support for Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who was due to brief EU leaders later today on his government's fight against ethnic Albanian insurgents.

EU leaders also discussed the foot-and-mouth crisis, which has now spread from farms in Britain to the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. But the leaders announced no compensation to offset the effects of the contagious disease, which has led to the forced mass slaughter of livestock.