Russia lifts security regime in Chechnya

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The Independent Online

Russia has lifted a tight security regime in Chechnya which has allowed it to enforce military-style restrictions there for the past decade, a Kremlin security body said today.

"This decision aims to create conditions to further normalise the situation in the region, to restore and develop its economic and social infrastructure," a spokesman for the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, which has responsibility for the region, said.

Restrictions such as curfews, roadblocks, spot searches and arbitrary detention were imposed in Chechnya in 1999 when Russia sent troops to the region to end its short-lived independence, won in an earlier war with Moscow.

Kremlin opponents say the special regime, which also includes restricted access for journalists, has fostered huge violations of human rights in the region.

The decision to end it was taken by President Dmitry Medvedev, said the committee's spokesman.

Over the past 10 years the pro-Moscow regional administration led by former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov has subdued large-scale rebel resistance.

Kadyrov says Chechnya today is stable and the region has put behind it the violence that claimed tens of thousands of lives after war erupted in 1994.

Kadyrov, who is backed by the Kremlin and the Russian mass media, has long wanted to ease both the restrictions and slacken Moscow's grip on the region.

Russia has withdrawn most of its army units from Chechnya but tens of thousands of police from other Russian regions and scores of special service units still patrol there.

Chechnya remains one of Russia's poorest regions, dependent on handouts from the federal budget.