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BBC Moscow correspondent Andrew Harding
"Russia has reacted with scepticism and indignation"
 real 28k

Alexander Kramarenko, from the UK's Russian Embassy
"They leave it to the Russian troops to dispose of these bodies"
 real 28k

NTV station's editor-in-chief Vladimir Kulistikov
"People are really shocked"
 real 28k

Malcolm Hawkes of Human Rights Watch
Russian authorities themselves seem shocked by the detail
 real 28k

Friday, 25 February, 2000, 15:10 GMT
Russia denies Chechnya atrocity

Torture victim
This man, pictured by Human Rights Watch, says he was beaten and tortured by Russians


Russian officials have described a video showing mutilated bodies in a mass grave as propaganda - but the Kremlin says it needs further investigation.

Battle for the Caucasus
The footage shot by a German journalist shows bodies, thought to be of Chechen fighters, wrapped in barbed wire. Russian soldiers are seen throwing one body into the grave from a tank, dragging another behind a truck and burying the corpses in a shallow pit.

Russian human-rights commissioner Oleg Mironov branded the pictures, which have been broadcast by a Russian TV station, as "propaganda falsified by Chechen rebels".

Russian soldiers Russian soldiers have faced repeated allegations of abuses
An Interior Ministry spokesman said it was a fake timed to coincide with a visit by a European Union human rights envoy.

But Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the chief presidential spokesman on Chechnya, called the footage "a very serious document that demands thorough study, first of all regarding the circumstances of the Chechens' death.

"The chief military prosecutor's office must definitely pay attention to this video," he said.

The film is expected to be discussed by the Russian parliament on Friday.

International response

The UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook phoned his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, to ask him for an investigation of the allegations.

But the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation demanded an independent inquiry.

A spokesman for Human Rights Watch told the BBC the case was an important test of whether the international community would now be prepared to put pressure on Moscow to agree to a war crimes inquiry.

The pictures come after months of allegations of atrocities by Russian forces, which have repeatedly been denied by Moscow.

"The Russian Government has said consistently that our reports of summary executions and other abuses were lies," Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Minky Worden told BBC News Online.


With evidence like this there should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community

Human Rights Watch spokeswoman
"They just can't argue with this footage. It is entirely consistent with what our investigators have found from talking to refugees on the Chechen border.

"With evidence like this, there really should be no more pussyfooting around by the international community."

Ms Worden said economic sanctions such as the withholding of loan payments from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should now be imposed.

The revelations coincide with a visit to Moscow by a human-rights envoy from the Council of Europe, Alvaro Gil-Robles, who is due to discuss the Chechen situation.

But British Labour MP Donald Anderson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has already warned that pressure would not affect Russian policy immediately.

"There is no way the tactics of the Russians will alter between now and the election," he told the BBC.

Unhindered


"Vladimir Putin relies on his reputation as a nationalist, as a strong man, and his electoral success depends on that."

The journalist who took the pictures says he believes the troops themselves may disagree with the work they are having to do. He says this would explain why he was allowed unhindered access to the site of the mass grave.

Throughout Chechnya, Russian soldiers have been searching captured villages and towns for Chechen fighters.

Many men have been detained and their families have had no word on their whereabouts.

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See also:
25 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Mass grave video: The Russian view
25 Feb 00 |  Europe
Footage of a war crime?
23 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians accused of Grozny massacres
23 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechnya closed off
19 Feb 00 |  Europe
Row over Chechnya 'atrocities'
15 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russians urged to stop 'vacuum' bombings
11 Feb 00 |  Europe
Call for Grozny 'executions' probe
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
In pictures: Grozny in ruins

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