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Russia opens disappearance cases

Soldiers
Russian soldiers patrol Grozny  

MOSCOW, Russia -- Up to 200 criminal investigations are being carried out by Russian authorities in Chechnya, the country's senior prosecutor has said.

The inquiries were launched into potential human rights abuses in Chechnya by Russian forces and involve alleged cases of civilians disappearing during military operations.

Amnesty International has urged European Union leaders to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow an international investigation of alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Vladimir Ustinov told a group of European and Russian legislators that "no offence or human rights violation (in Chechnya) will escape the attention of Russian prosecutors," the Interfax news agency reported.

Ustinov's comments on the second and final day of talks on the human rights situation in Chechnya between legislators from the lower house of the Russian Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The legislators formed a joint working group in an effort to ease tensions around foreign allegations of Russian rights abuses in Chechnya.

Russia has admitted to isolated rights infringements in the course of military operations, but denies they were regular or excessive.

Ustinov said he had personally taken charge of the investigation into the killings of scores of people whose corpses were found recently in Dachny, a community near Russia's main military headquarters in Chechnya.

Relatives and human rights activists have charged that most were civilians detained and executed by the military. The military rejects the charge.

Ustinov said prosecutors had also opened investigations into killings of Chechen civilians in the Chechen settlements of Noviye Aldy, Alkhan-Yurt and in the Staropromyslovsky neighbourhood in the capital Grozny, Interfax reported.

Moscow is now trying to scale back its forces and establish civilian control in Chechnya, which has been shattered by two Kremlin crackdowns since 1994.



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RELATED SITES:
Human Rights Watch - Chechnya
Chechen Republic Online
Russian Government
Council of Ministers
U.S. State Department, Official Web Site

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