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Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 02:13 GMT
Row over Chechen human rights probe

There are reports of continued rebel sniper fire in the capital Grozny
Russia's leading human rights official, Oleg Mironov, has accused the authorities of trying to deny him access to Chechnya.

According to Mr Mironov, the Foreign Ministry told him he could not accompany the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Alvaro Gil-Robles, on a tour of the region on Monday because there were no seats on the plane.
Battle for the Caucasus


Mr Gil-Robles's visit follows international demands for Russia to allow independent human rights investigators into the territory.

Mr Mironov said the decision violated his constitutional rights and that he would ask parliament to set up an inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Chechnya.


A human rights commissioner should know the real state of affairs

The Russian Human Rights Commissioner
Mr Mironov said there were three people who needed to be on the plane: the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, the special envoy of acting president Vladimir Putin and himself.

"As for the others, there will be journalists of course, but there will also be dozens of bureaucrats who have no real role to play," Mr Mironov said.

Inquiry demands

US President Bill Clinton on Friday added his voice to international calls for an investigation into alleged atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

Russian soldiers
Russian soldiers have faced repeated allegations of abuses
A video recording of Russian soldiers piling bodies of bound Chechen men into a mass grave has put Moscow under intense pressure to answer allegations of human rights abuses.

Russian officials say the video film depicted dead rebels being temporarily buried for possible later identification. They described it as a propaganda trick by the rebels and said it was not proof that any atrocities had taken place.

Continued fighting

Meanwhile, Russian forces tightened their ring around the last Chechen rebel bases in the country's southern mountains, according to Russian reports.


A Russian soldier searches a detained Chechen
Federal artillery pounded the town of Shatoy in the Argun gorge and the surrounding villages, the Interfax agency said, quoting Russian military officials.

The Russian military says it has prevented some 3,000 rebels in the region from escaping from what the federal sources say is their last stronghold.

Reports from the Chechen capital Grozny say that rebel snipers have continued to fire on Russian positions from the basements of deserted buildings.

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See also:

25 Feb 00 |  Europe
Clinton urges Chechnya inquiry
25 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Mass grave video: The Russian view
25 Feb 00 |  Europe
Footage of a war crime?
23 Feb 00 |  Europe
Chechnya closed off
19 Feb 00 |  Europe
Row over Chechnya 'atrocities'
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
In pictures: Grozny in ruins
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