Letter: Chechnya's agony

Sir, The Novosti Agency's claim (letter, 10 December) that "bandits", not civilians, are targeted by the Russian security forces in Chechnya is not confirmed by reports in The Independent, eyewitness accounts and testimony collected by international organisations such as the OSCE, Council of Europe and Helsinki Watch.

Bombing by air, artillery and tanks of villages and towns throughout the last three months has been indiscriminate and has caused far greater casualties among Chechen civilians than among combatants. Such wilful disregard for civilian life has included grenades thrown into cellars (where civilians often hide from shelling and bombs), the strafing of civilian convoys and the bombing of schools and hospitals. Men have been separated from their families and placed in filtration camps; combatants are "exterminated" and tortured.

Such a military campaign is reminiscent of Serbian actions in Bosnia and Kosovo both in its disregard for civilian life and the use of militant nationalism to achieve political objectives. An ethical foreign policy requires that the response of the British government and the international community be therefore similar in Yugoslavia and Chechnya.

Dr TARAS KUZIO

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies

University of Alberta, Canada

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