[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy site] alleged Monday in a new report that Russian kidnappings of civilians in Chechnya have become so widespread as to constitute a "crime against humanity." The report says that thousands of people have "disappeared" since the 1999 start of the Chechnyan conflict with the full knowledge of Russian authorities. Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Alu Alkhanov [BBC profile], responded in an address to the Council of Europe, saying that the reports of kidnappings were exaggerated and that "the republic's leadership has been working really hard to improve the situation. And the situation has been improving." Part of the Human Rights Watch report chastises the EU for failing to introduce a resolution on Chechnya at the UN Commission on Human Rights [official site] this year. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner defended the EU's position, stating that the EU was deeply concerned about the abuses, but preferred to resolve the conflict through economic assistance. AP has more.