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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Promises PACE to End Abuses in Chechnya

President Vladimir Putin used a meeting Wednesday with the head of Europe's leading human rights watchdog to renew his pledge to end abuses in Chechnya.

Russia is "interested in their eradication no less than others," Putin told Peter Schieder, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Interfax reported.

The Parliamentary Assembly has been one of the Kremlin's strongest critics on Chechnya.

"Concerning relations with PACE in light of the Chechen issue, our openness and refusal to hide anything brought about good results and eased PACE-Russian tension on the issue," Sergei Prikhodko, deputy head of the presidential administration, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

PACE has accused federal forces of failing to protect the civilian population in Chechnya and inadequately investigating reports of human rights violations by troops. PACE also has identified severe shortcomings in Russia's actions regarding refugees and displaced people.

Prikhodko said Putin briefed Schieder on Moscow's attempts to normalize the situation in Chechnya. Putin also discussed the prospects of broadening Russia's participation in PACE, which it has been a member of since 1996. "The Council of Europe is Russia's opportunity to play a significant role in the process of European cooperation and integration," Schieder was quoted by Interfax as saying after the meeting.

Russian officials renewed their drive Wednesday to close sprawling tent camps in Ingushetia that are home to tens of thousands of Chechen refugees.

Some 6,000 refugees are expected to return to Chechnya in the near future, said Igor Yunash, deputy head of the Federal Migration Service. He said officials planned to close all the camps by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin's human rights envoy to Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, accused "extremists" of putting "very strong pressure" on the refugees to resist returning home, Itar-Tass reported.