(London) - Prime Minister Tony Blair must take a tough stand on Chechnya when he meets on Sunday and Monday with Russia's president-elect, Vladimir Putin.  
 
Human Rights Watch urged Mr. Blair to warn that Britain is prepared to take Russia to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if Moscow does not vigorously investigate and punish war crimes committed by its forces in Chechnya.  
It's up to Prime Minister Blair to keep up the pressure," said Holly Cartner, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "Russian forces committed three massacres in Chechnya, and their perpetrators are still at large. Blair has to make clear that Britain will take the lead in bringing Russia to account."  
 
Human Rights Watch has documented massacres of at least 125 civilians by Russian forces in Alkhan-Yurt, and in the Staropromyslovsky and Aldi districts of Grozny.  
 
Last week the Council of Europe urged its members to file a complaint against Russia in the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg for violations of human rights in Chechnya. It also threatened to suspend Russia from the organization altogether.  
 
The Human Rights Watch letter urges Prime Minister Blair to condition British support for current and future loan payments by such international financial institutions as the World Bank on the sincerity of Russian investigations into war crimes. To date, the Russian authorities have shown scant inclination to facilitate open investigation of war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law in Chechnya. The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, was prevented from visiting detention centers and massacre sites on her recent visit to the region, while President Putin refused to meet with her.  
 
Human Rights Watch is not aware of any punitive measures taken against members of the Russian military in response to the three mass killings of civilians in Alkhan-Yurt, Staropromyslovsky or Aldi.