Russia Signs Peace Deal But Keeps on Fighting

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Russia balked, walked and then signed — but kept on bombing the Chechens anyway. In a somewhat confusing sequence of events at a European security summit in Istanbul Thursday, President Boris Yeltsin tore into Western critics of Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya and walked out of a discussion with European leaders on the crisis, after which his foreign minister Igor Ivanov proceeded to sign documents that conceded to some Western concerns. The Charter for European Security upholds the principle that conflicts within one signatory state are the legitimate concern of all, which means Moscow signed away its argument that the West has no business discussing Chechnya. And an updated Conventional Forces in Europe agreement caps military buildups in sensitive border regions — which means that complying with the treaty would require Moscow to withdraw much of the army it has assembled in Chechnya. A declaration on Chechnya specifically emphasizes a European role in finding a political solution to the crisis, although Russia has rejected any attempts at mediation.

Of course, signing lofty undertakings isn't the same as acting on them, and even as Ivanov was putting pen to paper Thursday, Russia continued its heavy bombing and shelling of Chechen villages, in which 170 people were killed, according to Agence France Presse. Decisions on the Chechnya operation are in the hands of the military and President Yeltsin, and neither is likely to set much store by new European security agreements. If Western Europe is given any role in Chechnya, it looks more likely to be in caring for the hundreds of thousands of refugees created by Russia's ongoing bombing.