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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

300 Protest Conflict in Chechnya

About 300 people gathered at Pushkin Square on Thursday evening in a rare protest against the armed conflict in Chechnya.

They demanded that the Kremlin begin negotiations to end the conflict, which started in earnest after the government accused Chechen rebels of terrorism in the 1999 bombing of apartment buildings in Moscow.

"Whatever is taking place in Chechnya has nothing to do with the fight with terrorism," said Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial human rights group.

Nikolai Khramov, coordinator of the Radical Party, said that negotiations are the only solution to the conflict.

"They say there is no one to talk to [on the rebel side]," he said. "This is a very convenient position. But the problem here is not an absence of a partner for the negotiations. The problem is that they don't want to conduct them."

State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov said that lawlessness in the region must not be tolerated any more. "We must demand the introduction of a state of emergency where the rights of administrations are defined and the rights of the population are protected."

Rally organizers called protesters to sign a petition to President Vladimir Putin immediately end the conflict and begin peaceful negotiations. They said 2,000 people have already signed.

Former Hostage Commits Suicide

A French freelance photographer who was kidnapped in Chechnya in October 1999 and released from captivity in June 2000 has committed suicide, Reporters Without Borders said Thursday.

Brice Fleutiaux wrote the book "Hostage in Chechnya" after his release, but has suffered deep depression over the past few months about his experience in Chechnya, his publisher said.