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DATE=12/7/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=CHECHNYA / HUMAN RIGHTS (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-256922 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The United Nations Refugee Agency, U-N-H- C-R, is expressing alarm about the fate of tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the Chechen capital, Grozny, just days before a threatened military strike by Russia. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports the U-N agency's fears are echoed by a group of Chechen officials and human rights activists in exile who have come to Geneva to appeal for international help. TEXT: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, expressed her concerns about the civilian population in Grozny to Russia's Emergencies Minister, Sergei Shoigu, on Monday. Ms. Ogata's spokesman, Kris Janowski, says the High Commissioner told the Russian minister that the fate of Chechnya's civilians was her top concern. /// JANOWSKI ACT /// We know there have been tens of thousands of terrified people basically roughing it in Grozny, hiding in cellars probably without electricity. Nobody's really had any information about what is happening to these people or the situation inside Grozny. We don't see how these people can safely get out of Grozny and how, under the current circumstances, this can all happen with continued bombardment and so on and so forth. /// END ACT /// Russia puts the number of people remaining in Grozny at 15-thousand. However, a group of Chechen exiles who are here in Geneva confirm other reports which estimate the civilian population at 50-thousand. On Monday, the Russian military dropped leaflets in Grozny warning the people to leave the city before Saturday or risk being killed in a massive air and artillery attack. Vagap Tutakov is a Chechen parliamentarian who escaped from Grozny in October. He says Chechen exiles have set up an information center in the neighboring Republic of Georgia, from where it receives daily reports from Grozny. Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Tutakov says there is no way people in Grozny can know about the Russian ultimatum to leave the city. /// TUTAKOV ACT /// How can they find out about this if they live in a town in which there is no light, no electricity, no contacts with the outside world? And, they're all living, the 50-thousand, let's say who are still there, they're all living beneath ground level. They're living in cellars. So, much time would be needed to tell everybody to go from one cellar to the next to tell people about this ultimatum and for them to tell them to take the measures, the necessary measures. /// END ACT /// /// OPT /// The Chechen parliamentarians say they have information that Russian troops attacked two districts in Grozny with chemical weapons last week. However, this report cannot be independently verified. They say they are afraid Russian troops might destroy a nuclear waste storage facility just outside Grozny if the military is forced to leave. This, they say, would have serious consequences for people from the Caspian to the Black Sea. /// END OPT /// The Chechens are appealing to the international community to get involved in ending the war. They are urging the United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to broker a peace deal between Russia and Chechnya. (Signed) NEB/LS/GE/KL 07-Dec-1999 09:50 AM EDT (07-Dec-1999 1450 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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