HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 cc478-9W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent meetings with Acting President Putin; and what assistance he agreed to provide in Chechnya. [115604]

The Prime Minister

I had useful and constructive meetings with Acting President Putin in St. Petersburg on 11 March which focused on Chechnya and the Russian economy. I made clear that the Russian response to events in Chechnya had to be proportionate and strongly urged that independent international observers be given access to assess whether human rights violations had taken place. I stressed the urgent need for a political process to begin in Chechnya. Mr. Putin assured me that Russia would permit access by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and by international bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

I also discussed with Mr. Putin prospects for the Russian economy and British investment in it. I made clear the need to improve conditions for investors. Mr. Putin stressed his intention to develop a liberal market economy.

The United Kingdom has already provided £1.4 million for humanitarian assistance to IRC/UN appeals for Chechnya. We have also donated through the EU which has provided 3.3 million euros. The UN launched a further appeal for Chechnya on 15 March and we are giving urgent consideration to a further UK donation.

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