Albright to discuss Chechnya concerns with Russia's Ivanov
October 23, 1999
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Saturday she is "very concerned" about rising tensions in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.
During a state visit to the African nation of Kenya, Albright said she plans to call her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, this weekend to discuss Russia's attacks on Chechnya.
"I am going to make quite clear our concern about the events, the fact that this cannot be solved through military means," she said.
Albright spoke in Nairobi. She's currently on tour of Africa.
"Obviously we're very concerned ... and have been for some time," she said.
"The events of the last 36 hours have been of great concern. We consider the action deplorable and ominous."
A rocket attack on the Chechen capital Grozny two days ago killed dozens of people and left scores injured.
"While they have had concerns about activities of terrorists, getting the civilian population involved in this in this way does not lead to a resolution," Albright said. "That this kind of violence is not a solution they should have learned in their last war in Chechnya."
Clinton administration pressing Russia over Chechnya
Albright's comments apparently are part of an administration plan to publicly criticize Russia for its involvement in Chechnya.
The Clinton administration said Friday it would be voicing concern with Russian officials on "all diplomatic levels."
"We are trying to ascertain the facts," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said. "There are different versions that have come out from different parts of the Russian government. We don't have a conclusive answer right at this point."
Lockhart said, "What's clear is there's been a tragic situation there with terrible loss of life."
Lockhart: Military solution won't work
"We will continue -- regardless of this incident -- to make clear to the Russians and to both parties that there is no way to find a purely military solution to this situation," said Lockhart.
"We believe that a constructive political dialogue is the only way to end this," said the administration spokesman. "We should not repeat the mistakes of 1994 and 1996."
The comment was a reference to Russia's 1994 war with Chechnya, which ended in an embarrassing defeat for the Russians and defacto independence for Chechnya.
Russian officials deny carrying out an attack that led to the deaths of civilians. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russian operations in Chechnya had "nothing to do with the explosion."
Putin's remarks contradicted an earlier statement from an army press spokesman, who said a Russian attack "hit the market because they were selling weapons there."
Clinton, Yeltsin exchange letters
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin have sent each other letters about Chechnya. Clinton wrote Yeltsin last week urging him to seek a "political dialogue" to the Chechen crisis. Clinton also called on Moscow to show restraint and refrain from "indiscriminate force."
The White House received a response from Yeltsin on Tuesday. Administration officials said the Russian president wrote that his government was responding to a terrorist threat.
Clinton officials said they wanted to hear the Russian government's explanation before deciding whether Clinton would seek to speak directly to Yeltsin.
White House Correspondent John King and Reuters contributed to this report.
U.S. pressing Russia through 'all diplomatic levels' over Chechnya
Russian Government Internet Network
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