RUSSIAN PRISON INMATES' CONDITIONS IMPROVE: GIL-ROBLES

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MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) - Inmates' conditions in Russian prisons have seen considerable improvement, acknowledged Alvaro Gil-Robles, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while addressing a news conference in Moscow today.

Russia has made considerable progress, within the preceding five years, in many fields-in particular, on the situation in prisons. The Ministry of Justice has done a huge job, he added.

The number of tubercular patients among Russian prison inmates came 12 per cent down, January into March, as against the first quarter-year 2004, the respective reduction for HIV carriers coming at a spectacular 20 per cent-all that through upgrading prison health services, Yuri Chaika, Justice Minister, announced yesterday.

More than a billion rubles has been earmarked to improve prison and detention house living conditions next year, the minister went on. (R28.04/$1 is the Central bank rate for today.)

Mr. Gil-Robles called Russia not to sleep on its laurels. He is badly alarmed by army hazing. The commissioner called for practical moves to put an end to it, and for culprits from among commissioned officers to be deservedly punished.

Harsh attitudes towards people from the Caucasus are getting ever worse in Russia. That alarms him, too. Russian authorities had assured him Russia would not tolerate whatever outbreaks of xenophobia and nationalism, he said.

The commissioner is determined to draw a report about human rights in Ukraine, and hopes it will be ready before the year's end.

As for the situation in Uzbekistan-in particular, the Andizhan bloodshed, Mr. Gil-Robles said he was keeping abreast with the developments, but the matter is outside his competences.

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