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Chechnya: Russian Military Intervention

3.20 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we are seriously concerned at the way the Russian military intervention is being handled and in particular at the appalling civilian casualties. We have made urgent representations to the Russian Government to put an end to the fighting, to allow humanitarian relief and to work for a political agreement which allows the Chechen people to express their identity within the Russian Federation. We hope that the ceasefire announced for today will pave the way for a peaceful settlement. We support the efforts of the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe to

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promote a settlement and welcome Russia's acceptance of this. We await the outcome of a visit to Moscow and Chechnya by the OSCE's representatives.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. I should be grateful if he would elucidate the announcement of the ceasefire today. There was nothing about a ceasefire on the one o'clock news—at least on the BBC. Can he explain why Her Majesty's Government consistently refuse to recognise the right to independence of the Chechens? Is it not a fact that the Chechens are not Russian and throughout their whole history have never wanted to be Russian? Does Chechnya not have as much right to independence as India, Jamaica or even southern Ireland?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, perhaps I may take my noble friend's question in two parts. I am afraid that I bring gloomy news about the ceasefire. Although it was due to come into effect today, all the evidence I have heard is that it does not seem to be working. So far as concerns the position of the Chechens in the Russian Federation, it is important that we appreciate that the Russian Federation comprises 87 different component parts. The Chechens are part of that federation, which, in turn, was created by the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. They are and historically have been for some time part of Russia.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, quite apart from the merits of this terrible series of events, is it not possible that there is a general lesson to be learnt; namely, that air strikes are not a particularly humane way of settling internal disputes?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for his comment. It certainly would appear to be the case that in this instance the tactics adopted by the Russian army by its own terms of reference have not been successful. Obviously, that provides a lesson for others in other circumstances.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I welcome the statement by the noble Lord and in particular the fact that the OSCE is to send a mission to Moscow and Chechnya. Can he say why it has taken so long to react when it was clear from the beginning that Russia was violating several of the provisions of the code of conduct on the politico-military aspect of security which, just a month previously, was agreed at the summit meeting in Budapest? Was it not clear in particular that it was harming civilians on a colossal scale and that the military forces engaged in Chechnya were not subject to constitutional control by a civilian authority? Further, does he agree that the use of tanks, artillery and bombers was totally incommensurate with the need to restore order in the territory?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reference to Article 36 of the code of conduct, which has direct bearing on the matter in hand. The OSCE has in fact already been involved in this matter. Mr. Gyarmati, the representative of the Hungarian presidency of the OSCE, has been in Moscow twice already talking to the Russian authorities. He hopes to

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go there again next week. Certainly, it is Her Majesty's Government's view and also, I understand, the view of the other members of the European Union that the OSCE is probably the appropriate international body to bring pressure on the Russians and help mediate with the Chechens to try to draw to a rapid conclusion this miserable episode.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sure the whole House supports the Government when they say that there should be a cessation of violence and greater access for humanitarian relief. The noble Lord added a third item, which I only partially caught. It seemed to have the flavour of urging a diplomatic settlement on the basis of self-determination for the Chechen people. If that is the Government's position, will the noble Lord spell it out? Are they now saying that a diplomatic settlement should take place only on the basis of satisfying the position of the Chechen people or are they looking at other matters? Would he be kind enough to read out what he read out before? No doubt that is the authorised version from those unknown and unseen people.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord opposite for not having articulated my words properly in my original reply. As I understand it, the position is that within the Russian Federation, the various 87 components to which I referred earlier do not necessarily share the same relationship to the centre in an identical manner. I understand that it has been proposed by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin of Russia that the relationship between Chechnya and the centre should perhaps be modified to give that part greater autonomy than it has enjoyed hitherto. This is precedented elsewhere in the Russian Federation and might provide the basis of a negotiated way forward.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sorry to come back to this question but that was not quite the point that I was making. When he first answered the Question, the noble Lord read out three points. One was the cessation of violence; the second concerned access to humanitarian aid. It was the third one that I did not quite catch. I should be obliged if he would repeat it.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I shall repeat verbatim what I read out before. The third point was to work for a political agreement which allows the Chechen people to express their identity within the Russian Federation.

Lord Richard: My Lords, is that the Government's view?

Lord Inglewood: That is right. My Lords, I hope that I elaborated on the background to it in my earlier remarks.

Lord Monson: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that since the end of World War II, most western European nations have allowed the principle of self-determination to operate in outlying territories which they have acquired generally by conquest within the past 150 years or so? Does he further agree that most eastern European and indeed Asian nations have not yet

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followed suit? Does he agree that it is time that they were persuaded to follow the democratic example set by the West?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I hope I mentioned in my earlier remarks, it is our wish that all the erstwhile countries of the Eastern bloc acquire complete democratic practices. This is a matter that we want to see implemented, so that when episodes of the kind that we are now discussing occur, there will be no need for military conflict and civil war.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, following from the last question, perhaps I may ask whether the Government accept that self-determination does not necessarily mean independence and separation? There are ways of achieving it without going to such extremes.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, will the Government consider contacting all the British Commonwealth governments together with the United States—probably the most formidable organisation in the world of mankind? If the British Commonwealth and the United States of America were to put great pressure on Russia, I am sure that much greater notice would be taken of them than of the United Nations.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord can rest assured that the Government will leave no stone unturned in trying to solve this problem satisfactorily.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, if, in a referendum, the Chechnyan people show that they want independence, will Her Majesty's Government recognise their right to it?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation. If, within the constitution of that federation, they wish to secede and that was agreed by all the parties concerned, it would be a matter for them.

Environment Bill [H.L.]

3.31 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Ullswater.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

[Amendments Nos. 33 to 36 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Guidance on sustainable development and other aims and objectives]:

[Amendment No. 37 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

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