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Russia: Council Of Europe Group Visits Chechnya

Grozny, 4 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A delegation from the Council of Europe today continued its tour of Chechnya with a visit to a Chechen refugee camp in the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia. There were no immediate comments from the Council's Parliamentary Assembly delegation -- led by Frank Judd -- after they visited a camp housing some 170,000 refugees who have fled the war. The group was accompanied by four Russian lawmakers.

A delegation of deputies from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) made a flying visit to Grozny yesterday but was granted minimal contact with local residents.

The PACE deputies accompanied by four Russian lawmakers were flown in and out of the Chechen capital by helicopters within the space of a few hours. German Euro-deputy Rudolf Bindig said the stringent security measures showed, in his opinion, that the security situation in the city was worse now than during their last visit to Chechnya in February.

The deputies met Chechen representatives briefly inside the airport perimeter. Officials spoke of improving conditions but some civilians said lack of security remains a major problem.

Also today, the body of Rizvan Lorsanov, a prominent pro-Russian Chechen who helped to end the 1994-96 separatist war, was found in the Shali region, southeast of the Chechen capital Grozny. Lorsanov's body and two others were discovered in the wreck of a vehicle which hit a mine.

In another development, the trial of Chechen rebel commander Salman Raduev continued today in the Russian town of Makhachkala. Two women (Fatima Taimaskhanova and Aiset Dadasheva) serving prison sentences for the 1997 bombing of the Pyatigorsk railway station in southern Russia testified that they had followed the orders of Raduev, who is charged with terrorism, banditry, hostage-taking, and organizing murders.