Chechnya: more flee ahead of anniversary
UNHCR monitors reported a spike in displaced persons arriving in Ingushetia from Chechnya this weekend ahead of August 6, the date declared as independence day by Chechen rebels and the anniversary of a major battle in 1996. Over 700 people crossed into Ingushetia through the main Kavkaz checkpoint on Saturday, the vast majority of them coming from Grozny. Some 40 people returned to Chechnya via Kavkaz on the same day. On Sunday and Monday, however, the Kavkaz crossing point was closed, so no new arrivals were reported. A smaller, secondary crossing point, Spartak, remained opened with 20 new arrivals over the weekend and 40 on Monday. The Spartak crossing point is reached only by small roads and has a much lower capacity for traffic in both directions. The main crossing was reported open today (Tuesday) but there were no early reports of any cross-border traffic.
Those who arrived on Saturday said they were leaving because of rumours that there could be renewed clashes between Russian troops and Chechen fighters around the August 6 date. Some indicated that they intend to stay only temporarily in Ingushetia and hope to return to Chechnya in the coming weeks. In all, some 150,000 displaced persons from Chechnya are living in Ingushetia.