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Russia: Rights Defender Reported Killed in Chechnya

The reported killing of a human rights defender in Chechnya should be investigated, Human Rights Watch said today.

"This killing would appear to be a horrifying tactic to silence those who expose abuses," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "And in Chechnya, continued abuses must be exposed."

The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society documents violations of international humanitarian law committed in the Chechnya conflict, and monitors the rights of those internally displaced by the conflict.

According to an unconfirmed report, on December 13, Betergirieva, together with Umar Musaev, another Russian-Chechen Friendship Society monitor set out by car for Argun, a town east of Grozny, to document human rights violations. Several days earlier, fighting had broken out between Russian and Chechen forces in the town. According to press reports, many civilians were affected by the fighting. The Russian sweep operation that followed drew many civilian complaints of abuse, prompting the head of the local Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate to order an investigation.

The shooting reportedly took place near one of the town's checkpoints, immediately after Russian troops manning the checkpoint had turned back Betergirieva's car.

Human Rights Watch is confirming the circumstances of the incident.

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