Chechnya/Ingushetia: UNHCR gravely concerned
Nearly 20,000 people have fled from Chechnya to Ingushetia since the Russians relaxed border controls last Wednesday amid reports of heavy bombardment and new civilian casualties in Chechnya. Several thousand people have also crossed from Ingushetia back to Chechnya, mostly to collect their families.
Government figures put the number of people who had gone into Ingushetia from Chechnya at 190,000 as of Friday. Of this number 161,000 Chechens had been registered, comprising 140,000 people staying with Ingush families and 21,000 living in railway wagons and tented camps. Another 20,000 had reportedly returned to Chechnya or proceeded to other parts of Russia.
Houses of Ingush families hosting refugees are overcrowded and the families are in urgent need of food and clothing. However, the Russian Foreign Minister and Emergency Minister who met on Monday with ambassadors of the G8 countries in Russia stressed that there is no humanitarian catastrophe in the troubled region but nevertheless said that Russia welcomes assistance from the international community. The Emergency Minister said that there are some 4,500 vacant places in collective centres in Ingushetia, referring to space in railway wagons.
UNHCR continues to be gravely concerned about the scope of the humanitarian crisis and the mounting toll of Russia's military actions on Chechnya's civilian population. On Monday, a UN inter-agency mission returned to Moscow after a five-day visit to Ingushetia and Dagestan. The mission will hold a news conference on Thursday in Moscow.