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North Caucasus: returns drop sharply

Briefing notes

North Caucasus: returns drop sharply

14 January 2000

Daily numbers of Chechens returning from Ingushetia have dropped sharply over the past few days, as fighting and artillery bombardment resumed around Gudermes and Shali, which had been previously regarded as relatively quiet. The daily number of those crossing back to Chechnya dropped to a mere 300 on Thursday, down from 1,500 or more just a few days ago. The drop is also linked to recent statements by Russian military commanders that men between the age of 10 and 60 will not be allowed in and out of Chechnya and will not be considered "refugees." The Russian military are now reported to be preventing men between 10 and 60 from leaving or entering Chechnya.

UNHCR is very concerned and we have asked the Russian government for clarification of the military statements. All those fleeing the war in Chechnya are in need of international protection regardless of their gender and age.

In addition to weekly convoys to Ingushetia's capital Nazran, UNHCR this week sent an 11-truck relief convoy to Dagestan's's capital Makhachkala. Dagestan hosts some 7,000 people displaced from Chechnya during the current bout of fighting, in addition to some 6,000 displaced during a Chechen rebel incursion into Dagestan last August.

According to various estimates, more than 180,000 displaced people remain in Ingushetia. 140,000 of them are accommodated with host families, some 25,000 in camps and another 28,000 in makeshift spontaneous settlements.