Free Speech Defense Fund Chairman Aleksei Simonov asked Russia’s General Prosecutor to protect the legally guaranteed right to information against the government’s "total blockade" on information on the Chechnya war. "We don’t know and may never know what is happening because journalists are barred until the troops finish ‘cleaning up’ and the bodies and witnesses are gone." Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova in turn charged that the bombings and "clean-up operations" against Chechen villages constitute "forms of genocide." Military losses are also being kept secret because they must be high: just one planeload March 20 brought 136 wounded to Yekaterinburg, half of them from the battle for Samashki. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, NTV, Russian TV, Western agencies, March 20 & 21)
At UN headquarters in Geneva yesterday, Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma called for an urgent settlement of the Chechnya war with the comment that "when people die there is no way to defend that war." (Interfax-Ukraine, March 21)
Lax Security But no Significant Nuclear Thefts in Russia.