The U.S. State Department says that Moscow made little progress last year in the area of human rights, and harshly criticized Russian forces for using "indiscriminate and disproportionate" force in the breakaway Republic of Chechnya. The assessment, which accused Russian forces of violations on a "much larger scale than those of the Chechen rebels," was part of the State Department’s annual report on human rights. It said that positive developments in Russia — the presidential elections and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya — were offset by discrimination against minorities, hazing of military recruits, uneven legal reforms, and a worsening of already harsh prison conditions. Other former Soviet states were also criticized. Belarus was accused of "serious backsliding" toward dictatorship and Armenia of having conducted "flawed elections." The report also noted with concern a sharp increase of presidential power in Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan, and said that Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan "lag even further behind in the development of democracy and respect for human rights." (Reuter, The New York Times, January 30)
Russian Goodwill Running Out, Foreign Ministry Warns.