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DATE=11/9/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=CHECHNYA REFUGEES NUMBER=5-44729 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=INGUSHETIA CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 shell-shocked. /// Mikhazkaya Act in Russian, Then fade To./// 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 To./// 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 complete chaos. /// 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 Under./// 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 takers. 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) NEB/PFH/GE/JP 09-Nov-1999 13:12 PM EDT (09-Nov-1999 1812 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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