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Russia: Putin Names Human Rights Official For Chechnya

Moscow, 17 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - Acting President Vladimir Putin has appointed a special representative to safeguard human rights in Chechnya. The Kremlin said Putin has apointed Vladimir Kalamanov, the head of Russia's immigration service, to the new post. Russia has come under strong international pressure to respond to allegations of human rights abuses in Chechnya. The Russian military denies the allegations.

The military today confirmed plans to seal off Grozny starting tomorrow. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said residents will not be allowed to return to Grozny because of fears rebels will sneak into the city in civilian disguise.

Yastrzhembsky did not give a date for re-opening Grozny. It is not clear how many civilians remain in the Chechen capital but they are thought to number in the thousands.

Today, Russian forces continued advancing against rebel strongholds in the southern mountains. Heavy fighting was reported near the villages of Duba-Yurt, at the entrance of the Argun gorge, and Itum-Kale, further up in the mountains.