Russia: HC's meeting with Putin "good and cordial"
High Commissioner Sadako Ogata discussed the humanitarian situation in the Northern Caucasus with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Monday. During the meeting at the Kremlin, which lasted just under one hour and which UNHCR officials present described as "good and cordial," they spoke about the need to help an estimated 140,000 people displaced from Chechnya to Ingushetia through the winter. Mrs. Ogata, who also met on Monday with Vladimir Kalamanov, Russia's human rights envoy for Chechnya, told Russian officials that conditions on the ground in Chechnya would have to improve considerably for the displaced to go back. Russian officials probed UNHCR's willingness to expand its aid to Chechnya itself. The High Commissioner said UNHCR may somewhat expand its limited convoy operation. But she made clear that the focus of the aid operation would only shift from Ingushetia to Chechnya once the displaced themselves start going back. For that to happen, she said, adequate political, economic and social conditions must be created.
During the meeting with the High Commissioner, President Putin said he had decided to award Mrs. Ogata the "Order of Friendship" in recognition of UNHCR's humanitarian work in the Northern Caucasus. Today, the High Commissioner was scheduled to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.