BLAIR AND PUTIN: STRAIGHT TALKING VITAL OVER CHECHNYA

Amnesty International has highlighted a growing catalogue of reported human rights abuses in Chechnya,

including the rape of Chechen Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in areas under Russian control, summary and extrajudicial executions

direct attacks on hospitals and medical personnel,

indiscriminate attacks on densely populated civilian areas, arbitrary detention and Ï disappearances “.

When Foreign Secretary Robin Cook met Mr Putin in February he reportedly pronounced him Ïrefreshingly open in his approachÓ, yet crucially Mr Cook received no guarantees concerning RussiaÌs intention to initiate or allow investigations into alleged serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

ÏThis is a striking opportunity for the Prime Minister to demonstrate to the world that his stated commitment to international human rights protection is not to be confined by diplomatic nicety.

ÏMr Blair must tell Mr Putin that the world will not accept a Russia that turns a blind eye to systematic human rights abuse in ChechnyaÓ.

In its letter to 10 Downing Street Amnesty International urges Tony Blair to:

Ö Seek firm guarantees that Mr Putin will allow international human rights monitors, relief agencies and media organisations full access to all parts of Chechnya under Russian Federal force control, and that he will make this an immediate public pledge.

Ö Raise individual cases, including the case of seven members of the Chechen Minister of Health Omar KhambievÌs medical team, part of a group of up to 24 doctors originally detained by Russian Federal forces on 2 or 3

February. The seven are reported to be detained incommunicado at the Mozdok Ïfiltration campÓ in a Russian military base in North Ossetia, though their exact whereabouts and state of health are unknown and Amnesty International fears that they may be tortured.

Ö Raise concern at continuing reports of discrimination and intimidation of ethnic Chechens Ò including through the ÏpropiskaÓ identity checks, supposedly discontinued by law in 1991 - in Moscow and other Russian cities including St Petersburg. This appears to be part of a campaign against an entire ethnic group.

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