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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin: War Can't Result in Isolation




President Boris Yeltsin shared a New Year's resolution for 2000 with his foreign minister on Monday: Next year's key foreign policy goal will be to frustrate any attempts to use the war in Chechnya to isolate the Kremlin.


Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, after meeting Yeltsin, told reporters of his new instructions from the president: "Our main task for 2000 is not to allow increased influence of those forces which seek to isolate Russia, using Chechnya as a pretext," Ivanov said.


Yeltsin's reported comments came on a weekend that saw major offensives pushed into Grozny - with unclear results - and a defiant military rejecting persistent reports that its soldiers massacred civilians in the village of Alkhan-Yurt.


The New York-based Human Rights Watch, the BBC and The Moscow Times have all documented testimony to the effect that 41 civilians in Alkhan-Yurt were executed by out-of-control bands of Interior Ministry troops.


On Saturday, NTV television weighed in with a report from Alkhan-Yurt that confirmed some of the allegations - and which apparently infuriated General Vladimir Shamanov, who as commander of the western front in Chechnya has jurisdiction over Alkhan-Yurt.


On Sunday, Shamanov was shown shouting at NTV, "Do not dare touch Russian army soldiers and officers, they do a sacred thing! Today they defend Russia, and don't you dare smear the Russian soldier with your dirty hands!"


Saturday's was NTV's second report on Alkhan-Yurt. Last week, Russia's leading non-governmental television station offered a pathos-laden on-the-scene report from the village that did not interview locals on camera. It focused entirely on the fact that there had been a clash between Russian and Chechen combatants, without mentioning reports of post-battle Russian wilding in the village.


On Saturday, however, NTV reported the allegations of Russian atrocities - and also showed selected parts of an amateur videotape of surly Russian servicemen engaging in looting and offering mutinous talk to Russia's two top officials in Chechnya, Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Koshman and General Viktor Kazantsev, the commander of Russian forces there.


The film shown on NTV was apparently selected from the same footage obtained by the BBC last week from an Alkhan-Yurt-born Chechen politician, Malik Saidullayev.


In the NTV report, Koshman and Kazantsev have come to Alkhan-Yurt to investigate the situation. They are shown arguing with an officer who refuses to volunteer his identity papers until Kazantsev warns him he is dealing with a deputy prime minister.


The footage also shows a trailer loaded with apparently looted goods, from appliances and carpets to home-made jams and blood-spattered family photo albums. In the background are the ruins of the village's one-story homes.


Saidullayev also told NTV that after the capture of Alkhan-Yurt, the Russian soldiers forced the villagers to run across fields under fire from tanks that followed behind them. Saidullayev said this exercise went on for kilometers.


This weekend the Russian Agency for Military News reported Shamanov would be dismissed from his post over the events in Alkhan-Yurt. The Russian military and political leadership swiftly and angrily put down that report.


"It is a lie," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, during a weekend visit to Russia's second city.


Colonel General Valery Manilov, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, told Interfax on Friday that the reports were aimed at undermining the army's ability to operate.


"A deliberate lie concerning, this time, a general respected among soldiers, is again being spread," Manilov said. "Such reports are evidently aimed at discrediting the grouping's command and sowing the seeds of uncertainty among the soldiers, especially near the end of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya."


Vladimir Ustinov, the Russian prosecutor general, said Friday a preliminary investigation had found no proof Russian soldiers exceeded their authority in Alkhan-Yurt.


Ingush President Ruslan Aushev has asked Prime Minister Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev to personally oversee an investigation into the murder of two Ingush men, whose burnt corpses were found in the beginning of December.


"This crime was committed by the servicemen of federal forces under the command of General Ashurov, but despite the existence of incontrovertible evidence, and also the names of the soldiers involved, law enforcement officers [of Ingushetia] have not had the possibility to interrogate them," Aushev said, in remarks reported by the polit.ru Internet news wire.