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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Row erupts over Chechen killings
Peace for Chechnya banner at pro-Chechen demonstration in Moscow by human rights groups
Human rights groups say abuses are continuing
The Russian authorities have come into conflict with human rights organisations over figures for killings and kidnappings in Chechnya.

The republic's Moscow-appointed prime minister, Anatoly Popov, provided his own statistics on Thursday, apparently in response to allegedly leaked figures provided by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which suggested a continuing high level of such offences.

Russian officials have denied the existence of the leaked document, saying some circles in Europe were using it as an excuse to try to set up a war crimes tribunal for the region.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the United Nations' human rights body rejected a resolution condemning Russia for alleged rights abuses in Chechnya.

'Sensational information'

Fighting and violence continue in Chechnya, although Moscow maintains that normality is returning to the war-torn region.

Groups like HRW have criticised Russia for continued abuses, saying that methods have changed.

Anna Neistat, head of the group's Moscow office, said fewer people were disappearing in "mopping up" operations to find rebels but more were being seized in their homes by masked gunmen.

Mr Popov said some 300 Russian servicemen were under investigation for their part in disappearances of hundreds of people in Chechnya last year.

He added that around 500 people disappeared in the republic over last year.

Earlier, the deputy prosecutor-general for the region, Sergei Fridinsky, said that more than 700 killings were committed in Chechnya last year.

The allegedly leaked document, however, claimed that over 100 killings of civilians took place in Chechnya per month on average during the year.

It added that at least 26 people had been kidnapped by Russian troops between late December and late February, which would be the highest rate documented by HRW since the conflict began in October 1999.

Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky has denied the figures, saying that they were circulated by people in the West who were not interested in a solution to the Chechen problem.

"Those disappointed with the referendum's astonishing results are trying to detract from the positive political and psychological effect the referendum has had," he said.

"This effect can be weakened only with sensational information, and (opponents) have again taken up the topic of alleged major violations of human rights in Chechnya."


SEE ALSO:
Putin promises Chechnya change
27 Mar 03  |  Europe
Call to scrap Chechnya poll
13 Mar 03  |  Europe
Moscow's man in Chechnya resigns
08 Feb 03  |  Europe
Q&A: The Chechen conflict
29 Oct 02  |  Europe
Profile: Chechnya
21 Jan 03  |  Country profiles


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