INTRO: The mass exodus of refugees from Chechnya is
overwhelming the ability of aid agencies trying to
help them. An estimated 200-thousand displaced
Chechens have already fled to neighboring Ingushetia.
More are arriving every day. V-O-A's Peter Heinlein
recently visited the border between Chechnya and
Ingushetia, and found angry refugees reluctantly
moving from one horrible situation to another.
TEXT: /// SFX of refugees fighting to get on bus.///
This is the Chechen side of the Kavkaz-One checkpoint,
where refugees are pushing and shoving to get on a bus
that will carry them away from the constant threat of
Russian air and artillery attacks. Many of them have
been hiding for days or weeks in basements, listening
to the bombs exploding around them.
Forty-three year old Madina Mikhazkaya has just come
from Grozny, the Chechen capital, about 60 kilometers
to the east. She says those left in the city are
/// Mikhazkaya Act in Russian, Then fade
I saw a big bus bombed. I saw the central
market shelled. My neighbor lost her arm. She
was young and beautiful. Only 22 years old. Our
nerves are ruined. Everybody has become insane.
There is little information coming from inside
Chechnya. Communications lines were among the first
targets when Russian warplanes started bombing the
region nearly two months ago. Western journalists are
barred from entering the war zone.
But recently arrived refugees tell of a steady barrage
of air attacks on cities and villages. Twenty-three
year old Grozny resident Milana Azdeyeva says the
wounded often die from lack of medical treatment.
/// Azdeyeva Act in Russian, Then Fade
We sit in basements. We cannot get the wounded
out. People have heart attacks. Yesterday, a
woman I was trying to bring here died. There is
/// End Act ///
From the border checkpoint, the newly arrived refugees
face an uncertain future. Camps set up along the
border can only accommodate 10 percent of the
estimated 200-thousand displaced Chechens. The rest
are living in private homes in Ingushetia, or in empty
warehouses or school buildings.
But Ingushetia, with a peacetime population of only
300-thousand, is poorly equipped to handle the influx.
Tugan Chapanov, administrator of one windswept camp
where four-thousand refugees huddle in tattered, old
army tents, says with cold weather setting in, a
humanitarian disaster is looming.
/// Chapanov Act in Russian, Then Fade
He says, "Winter is coming. We need wood. But there is
no way to transport wood. And if we find
transportation, we have no fuel." He adds, "Ingushetia
just does not have the strength to cope."
Mr. Chapanov said the food being provided refugees in
the camps is limited mostly to bread and water.
Moscow has offered little in the way of assistance.
Instead, Russian authorities say they will resettle
the refugees, either in the empty northern plains of
Chechnya recently occupied by federal troops, or in
other parts of the country. But there have been few
The United Nations refugee agency this week expressed
its "grave concern" about the scope of the developing
crisis. But a U-N spokesman noted that the northern
Caucasus region remains off-limits to international
aid workers, mostly due to a wave of kidnappings and
killings of foreigners.
So with the prospects worsening in Ingushetia, some
desperate refugees are choosing to return to the war
zone - despite the risk. As one woman said as she
walked back across the Kavkaz checkpoint toward
Chechnya, "the misery we face back there is no worse
than the misery we face here." (Signed)
09-Nov-1999 13:12 PM EDT (09-Nov-1999 1812 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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