Activist: Russian Fight Against Militants is Inefficient

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 7:45 pm (UTC-5)
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A top Russian human rights activist has told President Dmitry Medvedev that the government's operation against Islamic militants in the Caucasus is inefficient and counterproductive.

Svetlana Gannushkina and other activists met with Mr. Medvedev Tuesday in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. She said allegations of kidnappings, torture and murders by Russian security forces create public anger and inspire people to join the rebels.

President Medvedev told the activists that they are dealing with a very sensitive subject. He said he assumes that law enforcement officials are not the criminals but are the ones fighting criminals.

But Mr. Medvedev said he agrees that authorities should do more to persuade militants to give up their weapons. He acknowledged that some leaders in the Caucasus have their flaws, but he did not name names.

Russian forces have been fighting Islamic separatists for much of the last 20 years. Most of the major fighting in Chechnya has subsided, but the violence has spread to other republics in the Caucasus.

Mr. Medvedev also said at Tuesday's meeting that he expects Russia's Islamic community to help the government combat extremism. He told Muslim leaders that they show great personal courage in rejecting terrorism.

The president also discussed what he calls civil society's role in maintaining ethnic harmony as part of the fight against extremists. He said his government is doing all it can to wipe out discrimination in government hiring and ensure ethnic minorities in Russia have their own media outlets.

Mr. Medvedev also proposed a law barring anyone convicted of an extremist-related crime from holding public office.