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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Activists Quit Grozny Meetings

Some of the country's leading human rights groups said Wednesday that they will no longer take part in monthly meetings with authorities in Grozny, saying the meetings have failed to improve the treatment of civilians in Chechnya and have become a smoke screen for continued abuses by the military.

"We do not want the joint activity of the authorities and nongovernment organizations on observing human rights in Chechnya to just be a screen that hides continuing arbitrariness and illegal violence," the human rights group Memorial said in a statement.

Memorial and other organizations also said federal troops are forcing Chechen refugees to return to Grozny from camps in northern Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia, despite promises by officials that the resettlement process would be strictly voluntary.

The meetings between human rights groups and military, security, and prosecutor's office officials began in December of last year as a way to exchange information, said Tatyana Kasatkina, executive director of Memorial.

The last one, which took place Monday in the Grozny office of Russia's human rights envoy, Viktor Kalamanov, drew complaints from the human rights groups. Many of the military representatives who were due to take part failed to show up, and those who did said they were not prepared.

"We thought something might change as a result of those meetings, but nothing did," Kasatkina said.

Memorial said its representatives, who just returned from a tour of Chechnya, had witnessed "undisguised" pressure on refugees and even "direct violence" to force them to relocate to Grozny, despite the fact that there is not enough housing to accommodate them there.