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Threat to Chechen militants

Russia's military campaign in Chechnya has prompted demonstrations  

MOSCOW, Russia -- A senior Russian general has spoken out in favour of public execution of Chechen guerrillas.

General Gennady Troshev, commander of Russian troops in the North Caucasus region, justified his views by citing bomb blasts in Moscow and other Russian towns in 1999 which killed more than 300 people.

The explosions were blamed on the rebels, who accused Russia's own security forces of planting the bombs in order to provoke a military crackdown.

Troshev told the Russian newspaper Izvestia: "Yes, I am for the death penalty for Chechen fighters. If he has the deaths of dozens, hundreds of people on his conscience, what should he get?" Reuters reported.

"This is how I'd do it: I'd gather them all on a square and string up the bandit and let him hang, let everyone see," he added.

Russian has found it difficult to control militant activities of the guerrillas, who kill and wound servicemen almost daily.

Moscow's main spokesman on the campaign, Kremlin aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky, told Reuters he was against Troshev's plans.

"There can be no talk of public executions and shootings. Fighters who do not put down their weapons deserve to be destroyed, but those who give up and are taken prisoner should go before a court," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Russia's policy on capital punishment is currently frozen. The Council of Europe, a top human rights and security body, recently said Russia could lose its membership if it renounced its commitment to abolishing the death penalty, said Reuters.

The discovery of mass graves has caused rights groups to accuse Russia of running a "dirty war" in the region. They say the security forces often detain people on suspicion of being a rebel and then kill them rather than prosecuting them.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says it has documented more than 200 cases of people disappearing in custody. Russia claims the graves contain the bodies of people who died during fighting.

Russia's Chechnya rights envoy Viktor Kalamanov told parliamentary hearings that 930 people had been reported missing but had mostly disappeared in January-April 2000 during a period of fierce fighting, said Reuters.

He told Russian news agencies 546 investigations had been launched and 384 people traced, of whom 18 were found dead. But he said reports of missing people were still coming in and beginning to spread beyond Grozny, Reuters said.

• The Russian Government
• Chechen Republic Online

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