Washington – The Helsinki Commission will hold a public briefing on:
“The War in Chechnya and Russian Civil Society”
Thursday, June 17, 2004
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
2325 Rayburn House Office Building
Panelists will be:
Valentina Melnikova, National Director, Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia
Natalia Zhukova, Chairperson, Nizhny Novgorod Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers
The “Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers” has become the largest NGO in Russia as an umbrella organization embracing nearly 300 groups and thousands of members. Founded in 1989, the organization publicizes and combats human rights violations in the Russian armed forces, such as hazing or abusive treatment. Committee members also arrange legal help for conscripts and their families, consult on legislation affecting military and alternative service, and press for improved living conditions for military personnel.
The Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers have opposed the Kremlin’s conduct of the war in Chechnya and have accused the Russian Government of consistently under-reporting the number of Russian military casualties in the conflict.
Meanwhile, recent verbal attacks by President Putin and other Russian officials on human rights organizations and their funding sources raise concerns about the future of Russian NGOs that may be viewed by the government as politically hostile.