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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Russian media mull Chechnya abuses
Ransacked schoolroom
A school ransacked in the security operation
Chechnya is receiving unusually prominent coverage in the Russian media in the wake of what the Russian military call their "mopping-up operations" last week in the villages of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya.

Russia's military commander in Chechnya has admitted that wide-scale abuses were carried out during the security sweeps, which even provoked an outcry from Chechnya's pro-Moscow civilian leaders.


Operations like this have been conducted before, but no-one has taken any action

Russian parliament deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov
Russian TV and radio stations have broadcast several interviews with Chechen leaders condemning the operations.

According to NTV, the leader of the pro-Russian administration in Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, said people were taken out of their homes and forced onto their hands and knees as grenades were thrown into their cellars.

And the Russian parliamentary deputy for Chechnya told the TV he doubted that the perpetrators would be brought to book.

"I am not sure that those who are guilty will be punished since this has not been the practice here," Aslanbek Aslakhanov said.

Not the first time

"Operations like this have been conducted before and were accompanied by mass pillage, violation of human rights as well as violation of people's fundamental rights, but nobody has taken any action about it."

Soldier keeps watch
The threat of rebel attacks remains
Another Chechen official detailed the alleged abuses on Ekho Moskvy radio.

"At five in the morning, there was a clearing operation in the Achkhoy-Martan District village of Novyy Sharoy," Selim Dzhabrailov said.

"As a result, all males aged between 14 and 25 were detained.

Interrogations involved the use of electric shocks, as they told me privately - that is, they were tortured."

He also alleged that such abuses were a regular occurrence.

"Our estimates show that on average from 15 to 20 Chechen civilians are killed every day," he said.

Unlawful

TV6 showed footage of a wrecked hospital and school in Assinovskaya and interviewed angry locals.

"Mopping-up was conducted on every street and in every house; however, a representative of the village administration says that the operation produced no results: neither arms nor explosives were found in the village," the TV commented.


Perhaps for the first time, the authorities and local residents have prevented the military from hushing up the unlawful actions

Novaya Gazeta newspaper
Chechnya has also made headlines in Russian newspapers.

A long report in Novaya Gazeta headlined "exodus" detailed the plight of Chechen refugees in camps in neighbouring Ingushetia while Nezavisimaya Gazeta dwelt on the Russian authorities' response to the raids.

"Perhaps for the first time since the beginning of the current campaign we are talking about a situation where the republic's authorities and local residents have prevented the military from hushing up the unlawful actions against the local residents," it said.

Routine control tactic

"For a whole week the security structures tried to hush up the events and reiterated all the time that the clean-up operations had been carried out in full conformity with current legislation and that no civilians had been hurt in the process."

"In response, the Chechen leaders reiterated day after day that the military had indeed engaged in unlawful activities against the population."

Angry village women
Civilians are angry at the Russian troops' action
"In the end, even their opponents were forced to admit that unlawful activities had indeed taken place."

But Izvestiya was doubtful that the outcry would have a lasting impact.

"Clean-ups in population centres are a natural way for the military authorities in Chechnya to control the territory," it said.

"There are no legally established norms governing checks on identity papers, neither martial law nor a state of emergency has been introduced, and no other former of special administration of the rebellious territory has been laid down."

"Until such time as the logic of military operations is brought into line with international norms and the Constitution, clean-up operations will continue."

"So the situation will not be rectified by exemplary punishment for the culprits in one specific instance," it concluded.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

11 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia admits Chechnya abuses
10 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia accused of Chechnya abuses
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