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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Visit Prompts an Outcry

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush met at the White House this week with General Vladimir Shamanov, who has been accused of overseeing some of the most notorious atrocities against civilians during the brutal second war in Chechnya.

Bush welcomed Shamanov to the Oval Office on Monday in Shamanov's capacity as co-chairman of a U.S.-Russian commission on missing soldiers. Bush posed for pictures with Shamanov and the U.S. co-chairman, retired Air Force General Robert Foglesong, president of Mississippi State University.

Human rights advocates expressed outrage. "This isn't someone the U.S. president should be meeting with. This is someone the president should be calling for an investigation of," said Carroll Bogert of Human Rights Watch. "What message does it send to [President Vladimir] Putin? It sends the message that whatever happened in Chechnya we don't care about."

Federal troops under Shamanov rampaged through the Chechen village of Alkhan-Yurt in December 1999, killing 17 civilians, according to human rights investigations. The soldiers looted homes and shot those who got in the way, including a woman over 100 years old. When villagers approached Shamanov to plead for a halt to the "cleansing operation," he threatened to shoot them, investigators found. Rather than prosecute, the Kremlin gave Shamanov a medal -- a medal he appeared to wear to the Oval Office.

The White House said Thursday that Bush was not aware of the allegations against Shamanov. Bush agreed to the meeting because he "was attempting to reinvigorate that commission," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

She said, however, that it was "unlikely" that Bush would have done so if he had been aware of the allegations.

Shamanov has scoffed at the allegations. "Fairy tales," he said in 2004.

He suggested that human rights groups had planted the bodies in Alkhan-Yurt and fabricated a slaughter to impugn federal troops. "When people try to raise funds and to draw attention to their groups, they use anything," he said.