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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 21:15 GMT
Mass grave video: The Russian view

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, left, meets human rights envoy Alvaro Gil-Robles
The Russian media has been giving widespread but highly sceptical coverage to the video of mutilated bodies in a mass grave in Chechnya.

Battle for the Caucasus
NTV, the channel seen as being most independent of the establishment and often fiercely critical of the Russian campaign in Chechnya, has been showing all the footage so far broadcast, including a brief interview with an alleged torture victim from the much-criticised Chernokozovo detention centre.

It gave a neutral account of the burial scenes followed by reaction from Russian officials, and later carried an interview with the German reporter who covered them.

Other channels were less charitable to the view that the scenes were authentic. The partly state-owned Russian Public TV began with claims that the video was a "falsification" and followed it with brief scenes of corpses interspersed with official denials.

Universal response

State-owned Russia TV dimmed its pictures to such an extent that the most harrowing scenes were hardly visible.

The state channels ran sceptical commentaries over the footage, suggesting that the video had been released deliberately to embarrass Russia as the Council of Europe human rights envoy Alvaro Gil-Robles visits Moscow for talks on Chechnya. They also viewed with suspicion claims that Russian troops had freely allowed themselves to be filmed.

Official reaction acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and the almost universal response was that it was probably rebel propaganda and needed to be thoroughly investigated.

Russian presidential aide Sergey Yastrzhembskiy said he did not dismiss the tape itself but denied that it was taken by the German TV station which claimed to have filmed it.

"I dismiss the report that this tape belongs to the German N24 group. That is what I dismiss. This does not correspond to reality," he told NTV.

Mr Yastrzhembskiy said the tape was made by journalists from the Russian newspaper Izvestiya on 14 February. "The corpses you see on the tape are the corpses of Chechen militants who were collected from various sites, frequently far from the place of burial.

"It is for this precise reason that their feet were tied with wire as strings snap and that the corpses were dragged to this pit, because this is not a burial place, it is, let's put it this way, a provisional burial place."


Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the rebels regularly used such propaganda.

"This is just a well-tried method used by certain propaganda centres," he said. "We come across such things quite often. No mass executions of any kind are being carried out whatsoever."

The Russian Defence Ministry was more categorical in its dismissal.

"The allegations of mass executions in Chechnya do not correspond to reality," a spokesman told ITAR-TASS news agency.

Liberals from the parliamentary Yabloko faction, which has been most critical of the conflict, echoed the need for an investigation but in stronger terms.

"The video makes a terrible impression," spokesman Sergey Ivanenko said.

"A very thorough investigation should be conducted both into the circumstances of how this video was filmed and into what happened to those dead people."

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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25 Feb 00 |  Europe
Russia denies Chechnya atrocity

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