Rights activist blasts Putin

A leading human rights activist has poured scorn over Russian President Vladimir Putin's hardline policy in breakaway Chechnya and urged him to negotiate with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov.

    Putin is accused of reinstating dictatorial powers

    "We need a fresh look on Chechen politics and on the use of

    negotiation. Cleansing operations alone will not solve the

    situation," Alexander Brod, who heads the Moscow office for Human

    Rights, said on Monday in reference to military sweeps in Chechnya.

    Sergei Arutyunov, a top Caucasus specialist at Russia's Academy

    of Science, also blamed Putin for his staunch refusal to sit down

    for talks with Maskhadov, including during the Beslan hostage

    crisis.

    "Negotiations with Maskhadov would have undermined the position

    of Basayev", he told reporters in Moscow.

    Mediation offer

    Feared Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev has apparently claimed

    responsiblity

    for the bloody school siege in Beslan, which claimed the lives of 339 people

    , half of them children.

    Arutyunov added that many children could have been saved if

    Maskhadov had been asked to negotiate with the hostage-takers, who

    were demanding Chechen independence.

    "The Beslan tragedy was used to reinforce authoritarian

    tendencies"


    Alexander Brod,
    Moscow office for Human Rights

    The former Chechen president

    had offered

    to help mediate an end to the hostage siege.

    "The Beslan tragedy was used to reinforce authoritarian

    tendencies," charged Brod, who was speaking on behalf of a respected

    rights organisation, the Helsinki Group.

    He accused authorities of portraying Chechens and others from the 

    Caucasus as "enemies, destructive forces," thus

    exacerbating xenophobic feelings.

    Assaults

    In the wake of the Beslan tragedy, several restaurants serving 

    cuisine from the Caucasus were attacked and their owners severely beaten

    in the Urals region, in a series of racist attacks that

    left one person dead and two injured.

    Aslan Maskhadov is the former
    president of Chechnya

    Several people from the Caucasus region were beaten up in the

    Moscow metro last weekend, Brod added.

    He also called the appointment of Vladimir Yakovlev at the helm

    of the nationalities ministry a "hasty and unfounded decision",

    stressing that "extremist" groups had consolidated in Russia's second

    city Saint Petersburg under Yakovlev's tenure as governor.

    Yakovlev formerly served as presidential representative in

    Russia's southern region after stepping down as Saint Petersburg

    mayor.

    SOURCE: AFP


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