U.S. President George W. Bush should make Chechnya a top priority in his summit talks with President Vladimir Putin.

In a June 8 letter to President Bush, Human Rights Watch urged him to press for robust investigations into Russian abuses in Chechnya and access to the region for international monitors.

Human Rights Watch said that prosecuting the human rights abusers would be a good indicator of Russia's commitment to preventing abuses. It called for an investigation into the role of General Vladimir Shamanov in the events surrounding the 1999 massacre of 14 people in the village of Alkhan-Yurt. Gen. Shamanov was in the vicinity of the village when the massacre took place, but took no action when villagers pleaded with him for help.

"President Bush has to get a firm commitment from President Putin on the critical question of accountability," said Holly Cartner, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "The Russian government claims it is investigating abuses, but then it gives commanders like Gen. Shamanov special treatment. This is why the abuses keep continuing." Shamanov was awarded the Hero of Russia medal shortly after the 1999 massacre, and is now governor of Ulianovsk province.

Human Rights Watch also called on President Bush to seek assurances from President Putin that the Russian government would issue invitations to U.N. thematic rapporteurs or representatives on summary executions, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention to visit Chechnya before July's G-8 summit.