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Russia: Physicians For Human Rights Say Chechnya Abuses Continue

Washington, 24 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. human rights group has accused Russian forces of continuing abuses in Chechnya. In a report issued yesterday, the group -- Physicians for Human Rights -- says Russian forces engage in arbitrary arrests, torture and killings of civilians, extortion and looting. The report is based on interviews with Chechen civilians last year. Physicians for Human Rights made a name for itself probing war crimes in Bosnia.

The group said Chechen rebels also committed abuses, attacking people for working with Russian authorities.

Physicians for Human Rights urged the Council of Europe not to restore Russia's voting rights in the organization. Russia's voting rights were suspended last year over alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in Chechnya. The parliamentary assembly of the Council is considering at its current session in Strasbourg whether to lift the sanctions.

Six people were killed in an a landmine explosion yesterday in Chechnya.

Three civilians and three crack Interior Ministry Russian troops died while travelling on a main road near the village of Novogroznenskoye.

Separately, Itar-Tass news agency reported that Russian troops said they had killed five separatists in a rebel camp near the village of Kharsenoy.

The incidents came the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was withdrawing most of the 80,000 Russian troops stationed in the breakaway republic. He said an army division of some 15,000 men and 7,000 Interior Ministry troops would remain.

Also yesterday, the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR, said the Russian military presence in Chechnya and the destruction of infrastructure there was keeping refugees from returning. The UNHCR said in December just 40 to 50 people returned to the war-torn breakaway republic, while 1,500 more fled.