Chechnya: HC reiterates UNHCR concern
High Commissioner Sadako Ogata on Monday reiterated UNHCR's concern about the fate of Chechnya's civilian population trapped in Grozny. She expressed her concern during a telephone conversation with Russia 's Federal Emergencies Minister, Sergei Shoigu. Mr. Shoigu telephoned Mrs. Ogata to tell her that Russia has taken steps to improve the security of aid workers in the Northern Caucasus and decided to exempt U.N. agencies from VAT tax on local purchases. Mrs. Ogata spoke to Mr. Shoigu hours after Russian media reported that Russian military commanders issued an ultimatum to Grozny's non-combatants, telling them to leave the city or be destroyed. She used the telephone conversation to express UNHCR's concern about protection of civilians in Chechnya. She said the fate of Chechnya's civilians was at the moment UNHCR's top concern.
Minister Shoigu said Russia would shortly present a written security plan for international aid workers in the Northern Caucasus and exempt the U.N. from VAT on local purchases. The details of the plan were not immediately available. Minister Shoigu also said Russia will open the Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia) and Makhachkala (Dagestan) airports to international aid flights.
UNHCR's emergency team today went to North Ossetia's capital, Vladikavkaz, to be on standby for deployment in Ingushetia as soon as security improves.
Another UNHCR convoy arrived in Nazran this morning bringing the total of food and other aid delivered by UNHCR to 2,500 metric tons.