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The BBC's Claire Doole
"Mrs Robinson gave a graphic account of human rights violations"
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The BBC's James Rodgers
"Two sides remain locked in conflict"
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The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson
"I am concerned about the scale of the allegations"
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Friday, 7 April, 2000, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Chechens 'execute Russian police'
Omon funeral north of Perm
Russian forces bury those killed in last week's ambush
Chechen rebels say they have executed nine Russian paramilitary police after Moscow refused to swap them for an officer accused of raping and killing a Chechen woman.

The policemen were part of a group of special forces ambushed last week in Zhani Vedeno, near the key Vedeno gorge south of Grozny, in an attack which left 43 Russian servicemen dead.

Vladimir Putin
President-elect Vladimir Putin pays his respects to the dead
The claim could reinforce Moscow's resistance to demands by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mary Robinson for an independent probe into alleged Russian war atrocities in Chechnya.

Mrs Robinson has told a UN meeting in Geneva that Russian troops have committed serious abuses.

"I firmly believe it requires a sustained, effective national response," she said.

"I have offered expert advice and support should the Russian authorities decide to establish such an inquiry," she added.

The Council of Europe is due to vote on Thursday on whether to suspend Russia if Moscow does not order a ceasefire in Chechnya and begin peace talks.

Executions

Chechen sources said that the nine Russians were executed shortly after a deadline of 0400 GMT on Tuesday.

Russia says it never even contemplated handing over Colonel Yuri Budanov, arrested late last month for the rape and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman.

in chechnya
The UN commissioner heard first-hand accounts of atrocities
The Chechens say that they are ready to exchange the bodies of the executed men for wounded rebel fighters now in Russian hands.

"The exchange should happen in the next two or three days, because it is not possible to keep the corpses unburied for any longer," said a Chechen statement.

There has been no official comment from Moscow, but Russian officials earlier cast doubt on whether the nine men held were still alive when the rebels demanded last weekend that the military hand over the colonel.

On Tuesday, the Russian FSB domestic security service said it had tapped into conversations between a Chechen field commander and what it called an Arab mercenary, which indicated the nine were executed at the weekend.

Experts' mission

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe is to send three experts to Chechnya to investigate charges of human rights abuses.

The council's secretary-general, Walter Schwimmer, has warned against Russia's isolation and opposed sanctions against Moscow over its campaign in Chechnya.

During her visit, Mrs Robinson said she was "shocked and appalled" by the accounts of Chechen civilians.

She also accused Russian officials of barring her from visiting some areas in Chechnya where alleged beatings, torture and rapes took place.

So far Russia has reacted coolly to UN calls for an investigation.

Russian tanks
Russian tanks move into position near Nozhai-Yurt
Vladimir Kalamanov, Russia's human rights envoy for Chechnya, said Russia may set up its own inquiry, but said there would not be a lot of investigate.

"As events have shown, crimes by servicemen in Chechnya are more an exception than a rule," he said.

Fighting has been continuing in the mountains south of Grozny, with Russian jets flying 30 sorties in the last 24 hours, targeting rebels believed to be in the southern Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt districts.

Fierce fighting was raging on the ground in those two districts, Russian military sources said, adding that 20 rebels on a reconnaissance mission were wiped out.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Europe
Chechen visit a mixed success
03 Apr 00 | Europe
Russia attacks UN rights chief
02 Apr 00 | Europe
Robinson ruffles Russia
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