FROM GILES WHITTELLChechen coverage attacked
April 4 2000
MOSCOW - RUSSIA'S best-known film director led a scathing attack yesterday on Vanessa Redgrave and other Western cultural figures for criticising Russian tactics in Chechnya in an open letter to Le Monde last week.
Nikita Mikhalkov, whose last film, The Barber of Siberia, was a £26 million flop starring Julia Ormond, accused "the European elite" of "hysteria and catastrophism in their criticism of us and Russia".
In a long and rambling speech at a press conference in Moscow he said that the BBC and CNN appeared to hold Russia to one set of standards over Chechnya but Nato to a different one over Kosovo.
Mikhalkov enjoys a unique role in Russia, bridging the worlds of culture, politics and business. He was joined by Nikolai Petrov, a leading concert pianist, who had a message for the outside world: "Please, mind your own business."
Mikhalkov reserved his strongest words for the Western press, which he accused of carefully polishing a biased image of Russia as "a horrible people and a terrible country".
The high-profile pledges of support for Vladimir Putin came as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe suspended Russia's right to vote on its own status in the assembly, and Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, flew back to Moscow repeating her frustration at being barred from Chechen villages where she had hoped to look into allegations of Russian atrocities.