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Georgia: Chechen airbridge evacuation complete

Briefing notes

Georgia: Chechen airbridge evacuation complete

17 December 1999

Since last Friday, UNHCR has evacuated by helicopter some 1,200 Chechen refugees from a remote mountain village of Shatili in Georgia, on the southern slopes of the Caucasus, just across the border from Chechnya, to villages in the Pankisi valley in the Akhmeta region of north-eastern Georgia. The arrival of the 1,200 brings the total number of Chechen refugees in Georgia to 5,000 - virtually all of them accommodated in the Pankisi valley. The airbridge - organised with the help of the Georgian border guards - is now completed. The evacuated group was composed of predominantly women and children. There were also 50 war-wounded men in the group. They were handed over to the ICRC. From Georgia, Shatili can only be reached by air during the winter.

UNHCR is trying to confirm reports that some Chechen refugees may still be stuck in no-man's land between Chechnya and Georgia, intending to cross the border. The airlifting may resume if more people have to be flown to safety.

Today, (Friday) the 16th UNHCR convoy reached Ingushetia's capital Nazran bringing food as well as 5,700 blankets and 4,877 mattresses to the internally displaced in Ingushetia.