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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal   Acting Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
Statement on Russian Attack on Grozny, Chechnya
Washington, D.C., October 22, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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The crisis in the North Caucasus has clearly worsened, especially with yesterday's shocking violence in Grozny. The increasing loss of civilian life further jeopardizes the security and stability of the region. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families.

Since the beginning of the current conflict, we have consistently spoken out against indiscriminate, disproportionate use of force as a clear threat to innocent civilians. The escalation of violence in Chechnya over the past 24 hours has raised concern in the U.S. and elsewhere about prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Secretary Albright has expressed these concerns to Foreign Minister Ivanov previously and plans to speak with him again over the weekend.

In my testimony before Congress on Tuesday, I emphasized five core elements of our policy:

First, that a spread of violence in the region will be contrary to everyone's interests except those who rely on violence as a means to their political ends, including separatists.

Second, Russia's last war in Chechnya 1994-1996 demonstrated that there cannot be a purely military solution to the problem there and there must be a vigorous and conscientious effort to engage in a serious political dialogue.

Third, all parties should avoid indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force that would harm innocent civilians.

Fourth, Russia's progress toward developing a civil society, inclusive democracy and rule of law will be in jeopardy if it permits a backlash against its citizens because of their ethnicity or religion.

Fifth, in defending its own territory, Russia should take special care to respect the independence and security concerns of neighboring states, especially Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The escalating spiral of violence only underscores the validity of these principles. We call on the Russian government and responsible Chechen leaders to open a political dialogue urgently, in the interests of the right of the Chechen people to a normal, peaceful life, in the interest of regional peace and security and in the interest of Russia's continuing reform.

[End of Document]
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