Russia 'thinning out' Chechens 

An international human rights organisation has accused

the Russian military of a campaign of executions in

Chechnya to deliberately reduce the break-away

republic's male population. 

In a report released on Tuesday, the International

Helsinki Federation alleges that Chechen men are

regularly abducted and murdered during sweep and

search operations by Russian special forces. 

Following visits to Chechnya and the neighbouring

republic of Ingushetia, senior representatives of the

federation say between 50 and 80 bodies are recovered

each month after operations by Russian special forces.

They say the corpses are overwhelmingly young and male

- and they describe the situation as "a process of

thinning out a population of young men". 

Conservative estimate 

Given that Chechnya's population is now thought to be

less than half a million people, the International

Helsinki Federation says the scale of the killings is

almost unprecedented. 

"The process by which young Chechen men are being

abducted and murdered... is on a huge scale in a world

context," said the human rights group's executive

director, Aaron Rhodes. 

Mr Rhodes said that the number of dead was a

conservative estimate for the past six months based on

research by human rights groups and reports from

Chechen civilians. 

Russia has not yet released casualty figures for

civilians in Chechnya, but officials there say that

Chechen accounts of abuses during the search

operations are exaggerated. 

Tighter measures 

Russia's military in Chechnya introduced new measures

earlier this year in response to reports of abductions

and summary executions during sweep operations. 

Russian special forces, accompanied by local Chechen

officials, must now identify themselves properly. 

And Mr Rhodes said the toll was not decreasing,

despite the new orders designed to reduce the abuse of

civilians during searches. 

The BBC's regional analyst Steven Eke says Moscow's

own administrators in Chechnya say that the process of

accountability is almost non-existent. 

President Vladimir Putin recently appointed a new

human rights envoy to Chechnya. 

In a tacit admission that abuses are commonplace, the

envoy, himself an ethnic Chechen, pledged to end

abductions and the disappearances of civilians by

strengthening the powers of the local Chechen



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