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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Amnesty Says State Pressure Mounting

Authorities have intensified pressure on civil society and the independent media and are turning a blind eye to the growing number of hate crimes targeting foreigners, immigrants and sexual minorities, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.

The criticism from Amnesty is the latest in a growing chorus from human rights groups and Western nations about society under President Vladimir Putin.

In its 2007 global report, Amnesty said authorities "deliberately fomented fear to erode human rights," restricting freedom of expression.

"The authoritarian drift in Russia has been devastating for journalists and human rights defenders," the report said, noting the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and new laws clamping down on rights organizations.

Civil and nongovernmental groups are "left vulnerable" to new government regulations and the country's leaders are failing to confront "racism, xenophobia and ideologies that promote hate crimes," the report said.

Authorities have also ignored the abduction of civilians in Chechnya, which it called a "forgotten" conflict, it said.

Ella Pamfilova, the chairwoman of the Kremlin's human rights council, said authorities should consider the report, but disagreed with some aspects, including on rights abuses in Chechnya.

"I respect their viewpoint and unbiased work, but the situation in Chechnya has improved dramatically," Pamfilova said.

In a separate report released Wednesday, Amnesty accused federal forces of kidnapping and torturing people with impunity in Chechnya despite Kremlin assurances that the restive republic was returning to normal.

In the 22-page report -- titled "What Justice for Chechnya's 'Disappeared?'" -- Amnesty wrote that while the number of disappearances had dropped, kidnappings were still commonplace.

"The incidence of 'temporary' disappearances, when individuals are arbitrarily detained and held in incommunicado detention while the authorities deny knowledge of their whereabouts, is high," Amnesty said. "During the incommunicado detention, the individuals are at a very high risk of torture and other ill-treatment in order to extract a 'confession.'"

Federal soldiers and rebels have also kidnapped and murdered people, Amnesty said, and although Chechen authorities have investigated kidnappings, there have been virtually no convictions. "Impunity for human rights abuses has prevailed," Amnesty said. "The authorities have failed in virtually all cases to investigate and prosecute the serious human rights violations." Amnesty said the second war, which started in 1999, has killed around 25,000 people and turned thousands more into refugees. Human rights groups say that up to another 5,000 people are missing.

AP, Reuters