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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Will Hear Demands For Monitors in Chechnya

LISBON, Portugal -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will face renewed Western demands for Moscow to allow independent investigation of reported human rights abuses in Chechnya when he holds two days of talks with his U.S. and European Union counterparts starting Thursday.

"Our language will be substantially hardened,'' European Union spokesman Gunnar Wiegand said. "The key thing for us to achieve is to have independent human rights monitors stationed in Chechnya.''

Ivanov is scheduled to meet Thursday in the Portuguese capital with a panel of EU officials that includes Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy representative, and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten. On Friday they'll be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

In an interview published on the eve of talks, Patten warned that the EU could not turn a blind eye to reports of rights abuse by Russian troops.

"Even if only half the stories were true, they would still be horrific,'' Patten was told London's Guardian newspaper. "We cannot behave with Russia as though nothing untoward had happened, as though we could simply conduct business the way that we wanted to before the Chechnya hostilities.''

EU officials said they were encouraged Moscow authorities cooperated with European human rights envoy Alvaro Gil-Robles who visited Chechnya this week. Gil-Robles said Russia had agreed that a human rights group could open an observer mission in Gudermes, Chechnya's second-largest city.

Russia on Wednesday denounced a U.S. government report on human rights that says its forces killed civilians in Chechnya, Reuters reported.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the State Department's annual report, issued last week, was based on "unverified, biased information."

"We are puzzled by the absence in the report of a section on human rights in United States itself," the statement said.