People continue to be arrested and tortured and many disappear in the war-ravaged Russian republic, where separatists have fought pro-Moscow forces for more than four years, said Rudolf Bindig, a top European official.

"The region still has a huge problem with security and respect for the principles and standards of human rights," Bindig, a rapporteur on Russia from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

"Several law enforcement and military authorities are currently operating in Chechnya," he said. These include troops from the interior ministry, special forces, the FSB security services, local police and forces of the recently assassinated president Akhmad Kadyrov.

"Each of these structures blames the others for the human rights violations.

"We do not know for sure which of the power structures is the guilty party."

Elections

Bindig, who last week conducted a fact-finding trip to the republic with PACE's Chechnya rapporteur Andreas Gross, was sceptical about upcoming presidential elections to replace Kadyrov, who was killed in an explosion in central Grozny on 9 May.

"It is impossible to normally observe the elections in Chechnya," Bindig added.

"We can only travel accompanied by 20 to 30 armed soldiers and only between two or three polling stations. Does that sound like normal elections?"

"Each of these structures blames the others
for the human rights violations. We do not know for sure which
of the power structures is the guilty party"

Rudolf Bindig, PACE

The situation in Chechnya can be resolved only with the participation of all sides in the conflict, including the rebels, a scenario that Moscow is unlikely to agree to, he said.

"It is imperative to gather together all of the political forces, except extremists and terrorists - those who have committed crimes," he said.

"All of them must participate in the search for a political solution. But the Russian side will not accept such a route to regulation."

Moscow has insisted that the war in Chechnya is over and a political solution to the conflict has taken place with last year's controversial election of Kadyrov, a former rebel turned Kremlin ally, to lead the republic.

His assassination last month has undermined those efforts and has presented Moscow with the problem of finding a replacement to back in the elections scheduled for 29 August.