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20 April 2004 -- The United Nations today granted Russia's demand to describe the situation in Chechnya as "not an armed conflict" within the meaning of international treaties.
The UN initially said in its report on wartime abuse of children that Chechnya is an area in Russia where "Chechen insurgency groups" recruit or use children in armed conflict.
But Russia objected to that qualification, saying its forces merely respond in Chechnya to attacks by "terrorists." It also says that many foreign fighters, some of them Arabs trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan, are believed to be helping Chechen separatists.
Following the Russian demands for change, the UN also altered its reference in the report to insurgency groups to read "Chechen illegal armed groups."
Meanwhile, the Moscow-based rights organization Memorial today disputed claims from the Russian government that the
situation in Chechnya is safe enough for families to return.
Aleksandr Cherkasov of Memorial said at a news conference that a Chechen woman and her five children were killed in Chechnya's Vedeno district on 8 April in a Russian air raid. Military officials denied that, and prosecutors said the family was killed by a land-mine explosion.
Cherkasov showed videotape of the bodies being unearthed and said an investigation would have determined the extent of the pilot's guilt but fhat the military was denying there was even a raid.
Svetlana Gannushkina of Memorial recounted the story of one Chechen family that reportedly fled to Ingushetia after they had to pay a $2,600 ransom for their three sons, who Gannushkina said were held by Moscow-backed local security services.