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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Rights Chief Slams Russia Over Abuses in Chechnya

GENEVA -- UN rights chief Mary Robinson blasted Moscow on Wednesday for blocking access to victims of its war in Chechnya and cited accusations against Russian forces of indiscriminate bombing, executions of civilians and rape.

In a strongly worded statement, the former Irish president said the Russian government had refused her request to visit areas affected by the conflict and an offer she said she had made to send an envoy to the region.

She cited allegations of civilian executions and rapes of Chechen women by Russian forces. She said reports had also been provided to her by the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, which helps victims of conflict and visits prisoners of war.

UN officials said Robinson decided to issue the statement, her strongest ever, because of the Russian government's refusal to allow her to visit.

As Russian warplanes and helicopters pounded rebels in southern Chechnya on Wednesday, Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, spoke of a "catastrophic situation facing civilians in Chechnya."

Robinson accused Russian forces of violating the Geneva Conventions, but the Swiss-run ICRC, which regards itself as the guardian institution of the Geneva Conventions that set rules for war, had a guarded reaction.

"We have a confidential dialogue with the Russian authorities through which we raise our concerns but we do not comment publicly on allegations of violations of international humanitarian law," an ICRC spokeswoman said.

Robinson said the ICRC had reported that numerous captured people were in need of protection and that the organization had not been granted access to detainees held by Russian forces.

She said the ICRC had also reported that the severe fighting in the Chechen capital had left tens of thousands of civilians with extremely limited water, food, medical care, electricity and gas.