Contact: Marc Thiessen
Phone: (202) 224-4651
Date: June 9, 2000

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Senate approved, by voice vote, an amendment introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill this morning condemning Russia's brutal policy in Chechnya and urging the Secretary of State to meet with representatives of the freely elected Chechen government. Senior State Department Officials have previously refused to meet the Chechen representatives.

The resolution also calls on the Russian government to immediately cease its military operations in Chechnya and to allow international humanitarian organizations access to the victims of the conflict.

Senator Helms delivered the following statement on the Senate floor introducing his resolution:

"Mr. President, I met yesterday with Ilyas Akhmadov, the foreign minister of Chechnya, who represents Chechnya's democratically elected President. He is visiting Washington hoping to discuss with the Clinton Administration his government's efforts to bring an immediate cease-fire to the brutal war that has wrought so much misery and destruction upon the Chechen people. His proposals to achieve a cease-fire and peace negotiations deserve close consideration by Russia and the international community.

"I find it incredible that Mr. Akhmadov's requests for a meeting with Secretary of State Albright and other senior U.S. government officials have been flatly rejected.

"Mr. President, this is an outrage. The United States should be working to facilitate peace in Chechnya, not to encourage the Kremlin to further its brutal campaign against the Chechen people.

"There is simply no excuse, Mr. President, for the Secretary of State to refuse even to meet with Mr. Akhmadov. Any meeting to discuss the democratically-elected government of Chechnya's legitimate peace proposal would not constitute a de facto recognition of Chechen independence.

"But this refusal to even meet with Mr. Akhmadov will certainly be interpreted, by Russia's President Putin, as yet another green light from the Clinton-Gore Administration to continue its indiscriminate campaign of violence against the Chechen people -- a campaign that has led to the death, starvation, and torture of countless of innocents in Chechnya.

"In our meeting, Mr. Akhmadov and I also discussed the atrocities that Russian forces are committing against the Chechen population. He shared with me a grim picture of life in Chechnya under the repeated and indiscriminate assault by the Russian military.

"Countless families continue to be bombed out of their homes. Chechens are still rounded up and sent to "filtration camps" where they are tortured, raped and executed.

"For too long, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have refused to use their power and influence to pressure the Kremlin into genuine negotiations to end the bloody conflict in Chechnya which already has cost countless thousands of lives of men, women, and children.

"Aside from empty rhetoric, the Administration has not lifted even a finger to make clear the outrage of the United States at the atrocities committed by Russian forces against innocent Chechen civilians.

"Worse still, the Administration has even legitimized Russia's military campaign in Chechnya with public declarations comparing this conflict to the Civil War in the United States.

"For this reason, I submit this amendment to the Defense appropriations bill. It calls upon the Kremlin to cease immediately its military operations in Chechnya.

"It calls upon the Kremlin to grant international humanitarian organizations access to the victims of this conflict and do it immediately. And, this amendment calls upon Secretary of State Albright to meet with Mr.Akmadov to at least consider his proposal to bring an end to this terrible war in Chechnya."