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Chechnya: U.S. And Council Of Europe Urge Russia To End War

Moscow, 22 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. and European officials urged Russia today to end human rights violations and negotiate peace in the breakaway Chechen republic. Speaking at a conference near Moscow, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said he hopes Russia will demonstrate the courage to seek a political solution and end what he called serious human rights violations.

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles said at the same conference that Russian authorities are doing too little to end violations of civilians' rights.

Also today, the Russian military responsible for Chechnya said its forces have killed 13,500 Chechen fighters since the current anti-rebel operation began in 1999. It numbered Russian losses at 4,200. The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, a Russian human-rights group, said that the both counts are greatly understated.

In related news, Russian authorities have flown army Colonel Yuri Budanov -- on trial in the rape-murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman -- to Moscow for a fourth psychiatric evaluation.

Budanov, the first soldier to be tried on charges of crimes against a Chechen civilian, says he strangled Heda Kungaeva two years ago while interrogating her because he thought she was a rebel sniper. Kungaeva's family says soldiers dragged her from her home at night, raped, and murdered her during a drunken rampage.

Psychiatrists already have examined Budanov three times, concluding finally that he was temporarily insane at the time of the killing -- a finding that could prompt the court to free him. Some human rights activists say the authorities improperly pressed psychiatrists to reach the insanity judgment.