The New York-based group Human Rights Watch has charged that Russian forces were responsible for the murder of fifty Chechens whose bodies were discovered at Dachny, an abandoned village not far from the Russian military base at Khankala, just outside Djohar [Grozny], earlier this year. The group also accused the Russian military authorities of trying to cover up their forces’ involvement in the murders (Gazeta.ru, May 16; see also the Monitor, March 7). Chechnya’s prosecutor, Viktor Dakhnov, denied the Human Rights Watch claim that federal forces were involved in the murders. Dakhnov said that only twenty-four of the bodies had been identified and that they were civilians who had probably been killed by the rebels. A source in the office of presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky told the state’s RIA news agency: “If the human rights group has proof that crimes were committed, it is obligated to present it. It is necessary to cooperate, not engage in demagogy” (Polit.ru, May 16).
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that he sympathized with Colonel Yury Budanov, the Russian tank commander who is on trial for murdering a young Chechen woman. Ivanov said that he considers Budanov to some degree a “victim of circumstances” and “deficiencies” in Russian law. Ivanov said that only a court had the right to determine whether Budanov was guilty and, if so, what his punishment should be (NTV.ru, May 16; see also the Monitor, April 12, March 2, 7).
UKRAINE, TURKMENISTAN SIGN LANDMARK AGREEMENT ON GAS SUPPLIES.