HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 cc328-9
4. Mr. Eric Clarke

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Russian Foreign Minister to discuss the situation in Chechnya. [17260]

Mr. Rifkind

I last saw Mr. Primakov on 27 February. On that occasion, Chechnya was not discussed.

Mr. Clarke

Is the Secretary of State aware that, since Sunday, Russian troops have been bombarding and strafing a village 30 miles from Grozny called Sernovodsk? Is he further aware that a corridor has had to be created to allow refugees to leave, and that the pall of smoke can be seen for many kilometres? What representations are the Government making before the Russian presidential elections to help find a peaceful and humanitarian solution? Does he agree that the people of the world will not tolerate the present situation for much longer?

Mr. Rifkind

I agree that a political solution in Chechnya is likely to bring lasting peace and stability to that part of the Russian Federation. We hope that the Russian Government have now realised that a purely military approach is simply not working and that it is necessary for them to consider alternative means of ensuring the peaceful integration of Chechnya into the Russian Federation, to bring the violence to an end.

Mr. Elletson

Has my right hon. and learned Friend had a chance to study the report by the Quaker representative in Moscow on the assault by Russian troops and mercenaries on the village of Sernovodsk? Is he aware that that report suggests that there are more than 7,000 refugees from that village, and that the Russian troops and mercenaries involved have waged a sustained campaign—involving the use of artillery and helicopter gunships—that is continuing as we speak? Does he agree that it is time the civilised world said to the Russian Government, "Enough is enough. We will no longer turn a blind eye to the continuing barbarity in the northern Caucasus"?

Mr. Rifkind

I have not seen the Quaker report to which my hon. Friend refers, but I agree that the kind of military action that we have seen recently is to be deplored and condemned, and will damage Russia's reputation in the international community.