Russia ‘ordered murder of Chechen moderate’

Allegations that the Kremlin deliberately killed moderate rebels in
order to prolong the war in Chechnya gained fresh impetus yesterday
after the European Court of Human Rights blamed Russia for the
disappearance of the republic’s former parliamentary speaker.

Ruslan Alikhadzhyev was seized from his home in the Chechen town of
Shali in May 2000. He was never seen again.

A critic of the extreme Islamists within the Chechen rebel movement,
Mr Alikhadzhyev was widely seen as a moderate and had called for a
negotiated settlement to end the brutal war in the separatist republic.

Critics of the Kremlin have long argued that Russia’s armed forces
deliberately targeted moderate rebels who wanted to sue for peace,
while allowing extremists to escape.

They claim that President Vladimir Putin benefited politically from a
popular war, while many Russian commanders profited from it – in part
by selling weapons to the rebels.

“We think that one of the motives [for Alikhadzhyev’s disappearance]
was the elimination of a political leader who could have achieved a
breakthrough in peace talks,” said Oleg Orlov of the Human Rights
Group Memorial which investigates abuses in Chechnya.

The court ordered the Russian government to pay €40,000 (£27,000) in
compensation to Mr Alikhadzhyev’s mother and begin a proper
investigation into his death.

Russia, which as a member of the Council of Europe is legally obliged
to comply with the ruling, has been infuriated by a string of recent
judgments against Moscow by the court.

It denied any involvement in the disappearance, despite overwhelming
evidence that Russian military helicopters and armoured vehicles were
used in the operation to seize Mr Alikadzhyev.

Russian troops have been accused of committing widespread atrocities
during two separatist wars fought in Chechnya since 1994.

Although pro-government troops control most of the republic and a
loyalist administration has now been installed, low-level fighting
continues and has spilled into neighbouring regions.

By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
The Telegraph, Last Updated: 12:47am BST 07/07/2007.

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