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Rights worker shot in Chechnya

Rubble
Russia's military action in Chechnya has faced criticism from home and abroard  

A Russian human rights activist has been shot while working in the rebel republic, a Russian lawmaker has announced.

Unidentified gunmen are said to have wounded Viktor Popkov - an outspoken critic of Russia's war in Chechnya - as he was driving near the village of Alkhan-kala.

The shooting comes a day after the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights strongly condemned Russia for "disproportionate" force in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

Popkov has worked in Chechnya since 1995 -- the time of Russia's first military campaign in the republic.

The deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's committee on security Yuri Shchekochikhin said Popkov has played an instrumental role in freeing hostages taken by Chechen militia.

Shchekochikhin said was driving from a hospital in the capital, Grozny, and was with a doctor when gunmen shot at his car.

Putin
Putin's Chechen policy remains popular in Russia  

Russian officials have repeatedly said that Chechen rebels are close to being routed yet attacks on the Russian military continue.

It is Moscow's second campaign against Chechen separatists - the first ended in 1996 with Russian troops being forced to retreat.

The Russian military launched its second operation in 1999 after rebel incursions into the neighbouring republic of Dagestan and a series of apartment bombings in Moscow which was blamed on the rebels.

There has been strong international criticism of Russia's military action and accusations of human rights abuses carried out by soldiers.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights on Friday criticised Russia's "disproportionate and indiscriminate" use of force.

It expressed concern at "serious violations of human rights, such as forced disappearances, extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and torture."

The resolution, which was passed despite opposition from Russia and China, was also worried at the "slow pace of investigating alleged serious violations of human rights."

Before the vote, Russia's envoy Oleg Malguinov rejected the "unacceptable" resolution and said that his country would not consider itself to be bound by the text.

"It doesn't reflect reality, developments in the situation, real measures taken by the government and the real perspectives for dealing with the situation," he said.

President Vladimir Putin has gained much of his popularity from his firm handling of the war in Chechnya, which remains popular in Russia despite steady casualties and reports of human rights abuses by troops.



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RELATED SITES:
Russian Government
Chechen Republic Online

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