Reuter: Russia's Ingushetia Stretched By Chechen Exodus
- Russia's Ingushetia Stretched By Chechen Exodus
Oct 01, 1999
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Thousands more Chechens, fearing Russian air strikes
against the rebel region, arrived in the tiny neighboring region of
Ingushetia Friday, joining a desperate search for shelter in makeshift
Estimates for the number of refugees varied from almost 68,000 to
100,000 in what Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, whose impoverished
region has borne the brunt of the flow, has called a catastrophe.
The people have fled in the face of a week of Russian aerial bomb
attacks and amid fears that a full-scale ground attack may be launched
in a rerun of the 1994-96 Chechen war.
``Unfortunately, the republic is experiencing a real shortage of food.
It is a good thing that Ingush families are giving shelter to Chechen
refugees in their own homes,'' Interfax quoted Aushev as saying.
He said up to 3,000 Chechen refugees arrived every day and that more
than 67,611 refugees had already been registered.
However, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said 88,000 people had so far
fled Chechnya and quoted the Federal Immigration Service as giving an
even higher figure of 100,000.
The Chechens, mainly women and children, having packed whatever they
could into buses, trucks and cars, were still trekking to the expanding
tent towns on the border, where workers were losing the race to put up
At the camps, Chechens line up for bread and water, eating and drinking
on rugs pulled over the grassy ground.
INGUSHETIA FEARS HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE
Ingush officials, whose region is one of the poorest in the Russian
Federation, have voiced fears that the crisis will worsen as the weather
Many refugees, who set out in bright autumn sunshine, have been forced
to sleep under trees or in bus shelters.
``The weather for the moment is fine. But already every day two or three
people die. And soon the rain will come,'' Akhmed Malsagov, Ingush
government head, told the Izvestia newspaper.
It was the first time any mention of refugees dying had been made,
although the report could not be confirmed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta said officials would be forced to re-locate the
refugees in other areas of Russia if the bombing campaign continued for
more than a month.
Russia and international aid organizations were rushing medical
equipment and food to Ingushetia.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry said a plane, carrying a field
hospital, four tons of medicines and 19 doctors, had taken off for
A convoy of 16 cars with warm clothes, food and bedding, also left
Moscow for neighboring Dagestan, where over a thousand refugees have
Sugar, vegetable oil, tents and mattresses from the United Nations
arrived in Ingushetia's main town of Nazran Friday, Interfax said.