Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 23

On July 19, the newly re-elected president of France, Jacques Chirac, arrived in Sochi for a day of discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On this occasion, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on July 22, “Chirac did not even hint at any disagreements with Putin on this question [of Chechnya] and approved the actions undertaken by Russia in this region.” On July 20, Chirac was harshly criticized in an editorial appearing in the influential French daily, Le Monde, for whitewashing barbaric Russian actions in Chechnya. The same issue of Le Monde featured comments by leading Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva, who said: “If the Westerners want to help Putin to integrate into the international community, then they must put pressure on him in regard to the issue of human rights. Within his entourage there are both democrats and heirs to the Soviet epoch. When the pressure of the West weakens, that serves to weaken the group of democrats.” Oddly, also on July 20, Interfax reported that Putin had sent birthday wishes to Alekseeva, the president of the International Helsinki Foundation and chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group. “Your firm beliefs, principles, and courage in defending free thinking draw sincere respect,” Putin said, noting that Alekseeva continues to “strengthen Russia’s institutions of civil society” (RFERL, July 22).