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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December 2004, 18:48 GMT
Chechnya viewpoints: Diederik Lohman
The conflict that has raged in Chechnya for the past decade has triggered sharply contrasting views.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Russia's massive military assault on the breakaway republic, BBCrussian.com asked 10 prominent politicians, human rights activists, researchers and journalists to comment.

The panel were asked to answer two classic questions that have troubled Russian thinkers for centuries: "Who is to blame?" and "What can be done?"

Alu Alkhanov
Alu Alkhanov:
Chechen president

Irina Khakamada
Irina Hakamada:
liberal politician

Diederik Lohman
Diederik Lohman:
HRW researcher

Konstantin Kosachev
Konstantin Kosachev:
Russian MP

Sultan Yashurkayev
Sultan Yashurkayev:
Chechen writer
Tom de Waal
Tom de Waal:
Caucasus expert

Valentina Melnikova
Valentina Melnikova:
Soldiers' mothers

Mikhail Margelov
Mikhail Margelov:
Russian MP

Lyoma Turpalov
Lyoma Turpalov:
Chechen journalist

Akhmed Zakayev
Akhmed Zakayev:
rebel envoy


DIEDERIK LOHMAN, senior researcher of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch

WHO IS TO BLAME?

On all my visits to the region since 1999 I have been struck by the strong yearning for peace and stability voiced by most ordinary Chechens; peace, not independence, is what is foremost on their minds.

Restoring trust is the only hope for breaking the cycle of ever more horrific human rights abuses by each side
Diederik Lohman
This desire for peace has provided a unique opportunity for the Russian government, but Moscow has dramatically failed to capitalise on it.

Instead of working with civilians to build trust, Russian troops have committed massacres, "disappearances" and torture on a massive scale.

For their part, Chechen rebels have sought to sabotage efforts at building trust by assassinating local leaders who worked with the Russian government.

This has perpetuated the conflict and its horrors.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Restoring trust is the only hope for breaking the cycle of ever more horrific human rights abuses by each side.

As a first step, the Russian government must curb abuses by its troops and bring the perpetrators of past abuses to justice.

Russian soldier in Grozny
QUICK GUIDE

A meaningful effort to curb abuses and prosecute their perpetrators would gradually help convince Chechen civilians that the Russian government was now acting in good faith in its Chechnya policy.

It should decrease popular support for the rebels, and begin to reverse the recent process of radicalisation.

These measures would create positive momentum that could slowly increase trust and, with it, hope for the future.

If sustained, a restoration of trust and hope would lay the foundations for a lasting solution to the conflict and the question Chechnya's status.


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