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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechen Homes ‘Torched’

Chechen authorities have burned more than two dozen houses in the past year to punish relatives of suspected rebels, and the Kremlin has chosen to ignore the practice, a U.S. rights group said in a report released Thursday.

Human Rights Watch counted 26 such cases between June 2008 and last month in regions all over Chechnya. The federal government has “overwhelmingly failed” to put a stop to the practice of house burning, the report said.

“Russia has said its ‘counterterrorism operation’ in Chechnya is over, but human rights violations there certainly aren’t,” said Tanya Lokshina, one of the report’s authors.

Much of the credit for Chechnya’s calm has been given to the region’s Kremlin-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov. However, rights groups have documented rampant kidnapping and even cases of torture, purportedly by Kadyrov’s paramilitary units. Often, relatives of former or current rebels are targeted to pressure the rebel fighters to surrender.

Human Rights Watch said in the 26 cases they documented, armed men wearing camouflage and sometimes masks go to the home of a relative of known insurgents, often at night. Their belongings are gathered and made into a makeshift pyre with the most flammable objects on top. After dousing the pile and the home in gasoline, authorities set the house ablaze, often staying for up to an hour to make sure that the fire isn’t extinguished, the report said.

Lokshina said no one had died in any of the incidents, though there was one instance when the house was set ablaze while its owners were inside, forcing them to flee.

Lokshina also said the practice has been used in the past by insurgents to intimidate Chechen police but said that did not justify authorities using the same tactic.

Kadyrov’s press service said a spokesman was not available for comment. A spokesman for the Kremlin did not answer repeated calls to his mobile phone.