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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 04:45 GMT 05:45 UK
European press review

The European Court of Human Rights' ruling on euthanasia attracts comment from newspapers in Spain and the United Kingdom, while two deaths dominate the Russian press.

The European Court of Human Rights' ruling that British motor neurone disease sufferer Diane Pretty's rights had not been breached when UK courts refused to allow her husband to help her die is attacked by both London's The Independent and Spanish daily El Pais.

It is pressing that the judicial and legislative authorities keep the law in step with this new reality

El Pais

El Pais compares the case to that of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro, who resorted to a "clandestine assisted suicide" in 1998 following five years of legal proceedings.

The paper is not surprised that the Strasbourg court's ruling on euthanasia paralleled the Spanish one, but it feels that these situations will become more common in future and calls for new legislation to "keep the law in step with this new reality".

"The remedy lies in a change in the law," The Independent agrees, pointing out that the 1961 Suicide Act was passed when such cases were much rarer.

"If Diane Pretty has the courage to die," it argues, "then we should allow her to do so."

Poisoned by post

Two violent deaths - those of Krasnoyarsk governor Aleksandr Lebed and Chechen field commander Khattab - dominate today's Russian papers.

While Lebed's sudden death was a shock, that of Khattab, a Chechen warlord of Jordanian origin, was being trumpeted by Russian military sources last week, although initially no proof was offered.

Today, however, government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta proclaims that "Khattab is no more" and Nezavisimaya Gazeta says "the rumours about Khattab's death were not exaggerated".

The pro-Chechen news agency web site Kavkaz-Tsentr confirms Khattab's death, saying he was poisoned on 19 March.

He personally tortured captives, cutting off their noses and ears and scalping them


Rossiyskaya Gazeta says he died after opening a poisoned letter delivered by a member of his closest entourage.

"A letter arrived for Khattab", says a gloating report in Trud.

The paper describes the death as a major success and predicts that "with the loss of Khattab, rebel resistance should finally weaken".

It adds that Khattab's brutality was legendary, even among other "extremist scoundrels".

"He personally tortured captives, cutting off their noses and ears and scalping them. The 'Black Arab' was particularly brutal when contract soldiers, airmen and members of the law-enforcement agencies fell into his hands."

A tragic accident

The helicopter crash in which Gen Lebed died continues to draw suggestions of foul play, with the heavyweight broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta predicting "a mass of rumours and speculation" even though it appears to be a "tragic accident".

One of the most unconventional generals and politicians of the past decade

Krasnaya Zvezda

The Internet newspaper Gazeta weighs in with a report that one of the survivors spoke to the pilot of the helicopter in hospital.

"The pilot admitted that the crew were using an old map, which 'did not show power lines'," the survivor was quoted as telling regional TV.

Gazeta also says that Gen Lebed only had himself to blame, because he demanded the pilot take off despite bad weather.

The web site reports that the helicopter's black box recorded Lebed saying he would "take full responsibility for the flight".

Meanwhile, Krasnaya Zvezda bids farewell to "one of the most unconventional generals and politicians of the past decade".

Praising Lebed - who won fame by striking the peace deal that ended the first Chechen war in 1996 - for his sense of duty, the army newspaper says that "his death is a huge loss for Russia".

True, he made mistakes. But this is not the right time to discuss them

Noviye Izvestiya

The obituary in the moderate left-wing paper Trud, however, is more circumspect.

It acknowledges that Lebed was a fine paratroops commander, but says that "politics was a battlefield for him".

Noviye Izvestiya puts it more plainly:

"True, he made mistakes," it says. "But this is not the right time to discuss them."

Election latecomers

France's Le Monde has a problem with the timing of the response to Jean-Marie Le Pen's election success.

While it sees a silver lining in the number of young French protesting on the streets and "getting into the republic", the paper suggests this comes from "a vague feeling of culpability" over the abstention rate.

"Many are one round late," the paper says.

However, it adds that this "aftershock following the 21 April political earthquake" shows that a very large majority of French youths don't want to be known as the "Le Pen generation".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

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