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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Officers suspended over Chechen 'torture'
Chechen villagers
Inquiry found that Chechen villagers had been tortured
By Jonathan Charles in Moscow

Russia's top military commander in Chechnya, General Vladimir Moltenskoi, has reprimanded his deputy and suspended two other senior officers after accusations of abuse against Chechen civilians.

The action follows an investigation into claims that Chechens were tortured by soldiers during operations in three villages earlier this month.

The inquiry found evidence of what it calls "individual violations".

General Moltenskoi has been under heavy pressure to act.

Russian soldiers in Grozny
Russian soldiers are accused of looting villages
During the past week, General Moltenskoi has faced repeated accusations that his troops committed widespread crimes when they searched the Chechen villages.

Even President Putin's advisors have acknowledged that abuses took place.

It is alleged that more than a thousand men were arrested in the villages and tortured.

Homes are also said to have been looted by soldiers.

'Individual violations'

An initial investigation by Russia's main prosecutor in Chechnya, Viktor Dakhnov, concluded that although the offences were not widespread, there were "individual violations" of the rules.

Despite that, General Moltenskoi reprimanded his deputy and suspended two other senior officers.

The army insists, though, that it will continue to conduct so-called special operations in Chechnya - searches of villages for Chechen rebels who, for almost two years, have been fighting Russian forces.

The military has been embarrassed by the reports of its activities in recent weeks, but General Moltenskoi believes he can restore Chechens' trust in his troops.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia admits Chechnya abuses
11 Jul 01 | Media reports
Russian media mull Chechnya abuses
10 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia accused of Chechnya abuses
22 Jun 01 | Europe
Five killed in Chechnya bombings
06 Nov 00 | Media reports
Nine lives of Moscow's man in Chechnya
16 Jan 01 | Europe
Chechnya's cycle of devastation
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