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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Criticized at Home on Chechnya

Two Russian politicians have voiced rare criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Chechnya, calling the war a disaster and speaking out for negotiations with rebel leaders.

Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right Forces faction in the State Duma, said Russia should end the war by opening talks with guerrilla leaders. Nemtsov made the comments last Thursday, five days after he met with a rebel envoy in Nazran, Ingushetia.

A day after Nemtsov’s meeting, dissident Governor Nikolai Fyodorov of Chuvashia assaulted Putin on all fronts for his first year in office and called the Chechnya campaign a disaster.

Nemtsov said the army in the region is falling apart and is afflicted by alcoholism and drug addiction. "When troops stand still, they get increasingly demoralized," he said. "They are plagued by alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution and looting."

Nemtsov said he later met with Putin and the president approved his efforts to engage the rebels in dialogue. But Nemtsov’s claim contradicted a television interview in which Putin asserted that the war will go on until all militants are killed or surrender.

Military prosecutors have opened 748 cases involving crimes committed by servicemen in Chechnya and neighboring regions since fighting began in August 1999, news agencies cited Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky as saying.

In his blistering attack, Fyodorov said Putin was taking Russia back to the darkest days of Soviet rule.

"Instead of a democratic Russia over the last months we have been building a bureaucratic Russia," he told NTV’s "Itogi" program. "It is obvious that … a strongly centralized Bolshevik Russia is being built."

Fyodorov called the 14-month-old war in Chechnya "hopeless, with no end in sight."

"In essence," he said, "it is also criminal because it is partly a civil war. … [It] was a complete disaster."

Human rights groups and foreign governments have said federal troops are too blunt an instrument to solve Chechnya’s complex problems, but few Russian politicians have criticized the war.

Influential officials from Britain’s ruling Labour Party on Tuesday urged Britain and the European Union to take tougher action on Russia’s human rights record in Chechnya. Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and development committees, said Britain and the EU should demand an independent inquiry into the military’s actions there.

"Impunity is simply not an option," Kinnock said in a radio interview with the BBC. "We need a credible and transparent investigation from the Russian authorities … but up until now nothing has happened and maybe we are reaching a point where some kind of strong action needs to be taken."

Three soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in rebel attacks over the preceding 24 hours, authorities said Wednesday, adding that rebels had sabotaged utilities in Chechnya over the New Year holidays. (AP, Reuters)