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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

02/29/2000

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Chechnya's Newest Woe: War's Ecological Fallout

URUS-MARTAN, Chechnya -- Huge pillars of greasy black smoke rise into the Chechen sky, towering over people who trudge past long-uncollected trash and fear drinking the water. After six months of war, Chechnya suffers environmental damage that makes it barely recognizable to its residents. Chechnya's environment was devastated in the 1994-96 war, and its soil, air and waterways still hadn't recovered when fighting resumed last fall. In some places, it is bare of all foliage - cut down by residents desperate for wood to heat their homes. In the southwestern city of Urus-Martan, residents say the sewage system stopped working long ago. People who fled here to escape fighting elsewhere in the republic tell of land tainted by oil from destroyed wells and littered with the corpses of animals. Snow sometimes falls in black flakes and a slick oil grime that covers streets and homes can be tasted in food and water, they say.

Pugachyova Plays to an Atlantic City Emigre Crowd

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey -- Some 12,000 Russian-Americans went home Saturday - to the Trump Taj Mahal casino. In the concert hall behind the gambling tables, there was only one temptress: Alla Pugachyova, the self-styled goddess of Russian pop, Moscow's Tina Turner with a hint of Edith Piaf, whose songs have given voice to the yearnings of millions. In Russia, she has sold 150 million to 200 million records. She was decorated by the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and, on her 50th birthday last April, by the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. In the gray Soviet era, Alla was a blaze of color and life. She has big hair (red on most photos, but on Saturday night a mass of teased and tousled blondish curls), a big voice, billowing concert costumes and a slightly outlandish mouth that can utter anything from an obscenity to a blessing.

Rights Official Suddenly Vocal

On Monday, Russia's human rights commissioner, Oleg Mironov, sounded more like his predecessor - long-time rights activist and former dissident Sergei Kovalyov - than himself. Mironov lashed out at the federal government for not allowing either him or the UN's human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, to travel to Chechnya. He complained that the conduct of the war is violating the rights of Chechen fighters, of civilians and of Russian servicemen. He said he intended to visit Chechnya himself in the immediate future. And he called for the formation of a national civic movement to combat rights abuses, in Chechnya and elsewhere. ""Among the rebels there are certainly bandits, terrorists and criminals,"" Mironov said. ""But there are also those who joined the fighting as a result of the actions of the Russian authorities. Their relatives were killed, their homes destroyed. ""These fighters are the husbands, brothers and children of these women we see trying to get out of Chechnya.

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