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Chechen Leader Doesn’t Want US Aid

January 13, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Chechnya does not want U.S. weapons and hopes for a negotiated settlement with the Russian government to end the bloodshed in the breakaway province, a Chechen official says.

Ilyas Akhmadov, who serves under Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in Grozny, said he is not seeking American assistance or mediation of the conflict but only understanding for the Chechens’ desire to stop Russian military attacks.

The Clinton administration on Wednesday ruled out a U.S. role in mediation between Russia and the rebels in its province of Chechnya, and suggested Europeans could take on the job.

But as Russian forces resumed an offensive in Chechnya on Wednesday, there was no indication Moscow would heed Chechen appeals or U.S. advice that it seek a political solution to the threatened secession. Accusing Chechen rebels of terrorism elsewhere in Russia, the Kremlin repeatedly has said it will not talk until the rebellion is wiped out.

``We don’t believe that the result of the use of force is going to be the melting away of resistance,″ State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said. ``We believe that the Russians are in a cul-de-sac, that they cannot by their current strategy come to the end of road because there is no end to this kind of fighting.″

Akhmadov, speaking at an academic institute Wednesday evening before planned meetings with members of Congress and others today, also said Russian soldiers continue to sell weapons to Chechen fighters and claimed no knowledge of any terrorist activity by Chechens.

He estimated 10,000 Chechen civilians and about 250 fighters have died in the conflict, but he declined to estimate Russian casualties.

``God forbid, I don’t want the United States to bomb Russia or give us weapons,″ Akhmadov said. His remarks were translated from Russian.

``The only aim of our government is to stop the total destruction of our people, and we are prepared to do anything,″ he said. ``We are prepared to negotiate.″

He said Russia tends to lament its mistakes but only stops aggression ``when it is drowned in its own blood. It’s a horrible thing.″

Meanwhile, the State Department is asking Russia for clarification of reports that Chechen males between ages 18 and 60, would be detained to see whether they had ties to rebel forces.

``It is essential that Russia respect the fundamental human rights of civilians in and around Chechnya, not endanger the lives of noncombatants, and ensure freedom of movement for displaced persons,″ spokesman Rubin said.

Akhmadov said he appreciated the American concern, but added, ``The issue here is whether the State Department will be satisfied with the explanation of the Russian government and what its reaction will be.″

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