Moscow criticises US think-tank over debate

Fri Dec 7, 2007 12:24pm EST

MOSCOW Dec 7 (Reuters) - Russia accused a U.S. think-tank on Friday of spreading anti-Russian propaganda by hosting a debate on violence in the turbulent Ingushetia region neighbouring Chechnya.

The Foreign Ministry said Russia was surprised the United States, with whom relations have deteriorated this year, had let the debate go ahead last week in Washington.

The Jamestown Foundation publishes reports on international conflicts and monitors unrest in Russia's North Caucasus area. Its weekly newsletter is largely critical of Russian policy.

The ministry said the sole aim of last week's debate had been to misinform the U.S. public about Russian policy in the north Caucasus.

"Organisers again and again resorted to deliberately spreading slander about the situation in Chechnya and other republics of the Russian north Caucasus using the services of supporters of terrorists and pseudo-experts," the ministry said.

"Speakers were given carte blanche to spread extremist propaganda, incite ethnic and inter-religious discord."

The think-tank said Russia was trying to intimidate it.

"It shows that they feel threatened by us," Foundation president Glen Howard said in a telephone interview.

"They're intimidated by the power of the free word and this goes against the state manipulation of the media in Russia."

The foundation's board includes Zbigniew Brzezinski who was national security advisor to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Separatist rebels in Chechnya have fought a conflict with Russia since 1994 and violence has risen in Ingushetia this year. The Kremlin wants to present the North Caucasus as stable, with Chechnya now controlled by a former rebel leader. (Writing by James Kilner; Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Robert Woodward)