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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

OSCE Report Cites Abuses By Russian Troops, Rebels

VIENNA -- Russian soldiers have used excessive force against civilians, and have engaged in robbery, looting and arson in their offensive against rebels in Chechnya, international monitors have reported.

A report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also criticized the rebels for systematic hostage-taking, as fighting intensified in recent weeks.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report Tuesday in Vienna, headquarters of the 52-nation organization dedicated to improving security and human rights in Europe. Members range from countries in North America to republics of the former Soviet Union.

In one case, the document said, a Russian helicopter was reported to have fired on a civilian car. Survivors of the attack then were forced into the helicopter and thrown out of it during flight.

The incident was reported near the town of Sernovodsk, but no other details were available on the number of people involved or their fate.

A series of attacks by Russian soldiers against villages with a strong rebel presence in the past month "have to be qualified as warfare against the civilian population," the report said. "This use of force must be assessed to be in clear excess of what could be described as military necessity."

Russian forces also have shown a lack of military discipline in the fighting, and have engaged in robbery, looting, destruction of property, extortion and arson, it said.

The report cited eyewitnesses, written documentation and "other reliable sources" as the basis of its findings.

Chechen fighters have engaged in a "consistent pattern" of hostage-taking, OSCE said, the most recent being the kidnapping of 99 people from a building company in Rostov-on-Don on March 6. That was the first day of an assault by rebels against the capital Grozny, controlled by the Russians.

OSCE said rebel leaders only condemn terrorist acts by their fighters after the fact and without concrete results. In some cases, it said, Chechen fighters kidnap Russian soldiers to exchange for family members being held. Russian soldiers have been known to exchange Chechen prisoners for money or weapons.