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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Russia wrong-footed on Chechnya
Russian troops in Chechnya
Russia admits individuals may have comitted abuses
By regional analyst Steven Eke

Russia has always maintained that its military campaign in Chechnya is part of what Moscow calls "an anti-terrorist operation", and that peaceful Chechen civilians have nothing to fear.

But the carefully managed image of heroic Russian soldiers fighting militant rebels has taken a blow with the almost unprecedented admission that abuses of human rights did occur during a recent sweep operation.

Previously, the Kremlin has tried - largely successfully - to control the flow of potentially damaging information out of Chechnya.

Chechen, Zelimkhan Muskhanov, showing injuries
A villager blames Russian soldiers for his injuries
But Moscow faced a public relations disaster as the loyal administrators it helped to install in Chechnya also joined in the barrage of criticism over the treatment of Chechen villagers at the hands of the Russian army.

Charm offensive

The military command has now launched a charm offensive, beginning with the reported suspension of a number of officers.

There is speculation in Russia that the Kremlin will now strengthen its political control of a campaign that's been left almost entirely to the armed forces to plan and execute.

Russia has always insisted that soldiers committing crimes in Chechnya will face justice, and several hundred criminal cases have been opened.

There have been almost no convictions, prompting the Council of Europe to condemn Russia for allowing what it called a 'climate of impunity' surrounding Russian operations in Chechnya.

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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