“Allegations that the Kremlin deliberately killed moderate rebels in order to prolong the war in Chechnya gained fresh impetus yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights blamed Russia for the disappearance of the republic’s former parliamentary speaker.
“Ruslan Alikhadzhyev was seized from his home in the Chechen town of Shali in May 2000. He was never seen again.
“A critic of the extreme Islamists within the Chechen rebel movement, Mr Alikhadzhyev was widely seen as a moderate and had called for a negotiated settlement to end the brutal war in the separatist republic.
“Critics of the Kremlin have long argued that Russia’s armed forces deliberately targeted moderate rebels who wanted to sue for peace, while allowing extremists to escape.
“They claim that President Vladimir Putin benefited politically from a popular war, while many Russian commanders profited from it – in part by selling weapons to the rebels.
“‘We think that one of the motives [for Alikhadzhyev’s disappearance] was the elimination of a political leader who could have achieved a breakthrough in peace talks,’ said Oleg Orlov of the Human Rights Group Memorial which investigates abuses in Chechnya.”