Europe's top human rights watchdog urged Russia on Wednesday to do more to protect press freedoms, punish soldiers who commit serious crimes in Chechnya, and halt a rise in anti-Semitism and racist attacks.
A report released by the Council of Europe did not mention President Vladimir Putin, but faulted Russia's record on human rights and democracy on the same day as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said e had accumulated too much power.
A number of television companies, radio channels and newspapers have been closed down since Putin took power and other media have been brought under the control of the state or firms in which the state is the main shareholder, it said.
Gil-Robles said the situation in Chechnya, where separatist rebels have been fighting Russian troops for six years, had begun to improve over the past year but people continued to disappear there.
While criminal groups and Chechen fighters were behind some of the disappearances, Russian forces and the Chechen police also appeared to be implicated, the report said.
It also said there had been a disturbing a rise in Russia of anti-Semitic attacks, homophobia, and discrimination against people from the Caucasus.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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