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Moscow Times
November 16, 2001
Activists Present Chechnya Peace Plan
By Kevin O'Flynn
Staff Writer

Human-rights groups mounted an international campaign Thursday to end the war in Chechnya, presenting a peace plan they hope will pressure the government to have talks with Chechen rebels.

The Russian National Committee, an umbrella group for a number of human-rights groups including Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group and For Human Rights, also called for emergency aid for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia.

The time is right to make peace, organizers said, with opinion polls showing that the majority of the population is in favor of ending the conflict.

"It seems our people have become wiser," Valery Borshchev of the Moscow Helsinki Group said at a news conference. "Hopefully, our military will also become wiser."

The human-rights groups presented a step-by-step peace plan that calls for both sides to sit down for talks and lays out proposals for the formation of a joint Chechen administration, an amnesty for rebels, democratic elections and the return of refugees.

Organizers have already begun collecting signatures calling for peace talks. In 1996, Boris Nemtsov, then-governor of Nizhny Novgorod, presented the government with a petition of 1 million signatures to stop the 1994-96 Chechen war.

Military officials have expressed fierce opposition to peace talks with the rebels. Viktor Kazantsev, the president's envoy to the Southern Federal District, which includes Chechnya, said last month that talks with an aide to rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov would begin within 10 days, but nothing has happened.

"We're in a dead end," Borshchev said. Even the exchange of prisoners between Chechen rebels and the federal government has stopped, he said.

Activists at the news conference drew attention to the dreadful conditions the 100,000 or so Chechen refugees living in Ingush camps.

"There really is a human catastrophe," said Lev Ponomaryov of For Human Rights, warning that half the refugees needed new tents and could starve and freeze this winter.

Photographs of the war will be on exhibit at the Sakharov Museum, which will act as a base for the campaign. A conference on the issue will be held in Strasbourg, France, at the end of November.

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