In testimony before the congressional U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, John Beyrle, acting special advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell for Russia and the other independent states of the former Soviet Union, affirmed that the issue of human rights in Russia would “absolutely be on the agenda” when President Bush met with President Putin in Lubljana, Slovenia on June 16. In what was described as a fairly downbeat assessment, Beyrle cited continued military activity in Chechnya as one example of recent setbacks in the sphere of human rights in Russia. Beyrle said that talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, the present chairman of the OSCE, have left U.S. officials optimistic that observers from the OSCE will be allowed back into Chechnya in the near future.
Russian human rights spokeswoman Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov, who also testified at the congressional hearing, accused Russian troops of having committed war crimes during the Chechen campaign. “In Chechnya,” she noted, “mass violations of the rights of the civilian population–looting, ‘cleansing’ of villages, torture, imprisonment in pits, extrajudicial executions, including the shooting of children-are continuing” (Washington Times, June 6).