Information on the Chechen refugee situation in Ingushetia
Johanna Nichols, University of California, Berkeley
Last update: Sept. 10, 2000
Current situation
Filtration camps, disappearaces, and the new hostage trade in Chechnya
Latest news
Chronology and archive of updates
Sources and links

While the focus of the Ingush language project is linguistics, professional ethics obligate a linguist working on the language of a threatened people to make their situation known to the public. The following is intended as a short, more or less self-standing description of the refugee crisis in Ingushetia and its background, with references. The text, and the links to sources given below, will be updated regularly throughout the duration of the crisis. This page is composed, edited, and maintained entirely by the project director without  input from, or knowledge on the part of, anyone else involved in the project. This article may be freely copied and distributed provided you do not alter or abridge it and you include this paragraph, the author information and date, the references below, and the URL of this page:

Ingushetia, Russia's smallest republic, shares a border with the Chechen Republic. Though the languages and traditional customs of the Ingush and the Chechen are closely related (the languages are about as close as Portuguese and Spanish), the Ingush have a centuries-old national identity separate from the Chechen and have been politically separate whenever they have made their own political decisions. Ingushetia seems to have been entirely free of the radical Islamic paramilitary groups that have been a conspicuous minority movement in Chechnya and Daghestan since the 1994-96 war. Despite this separate identity, Ingushetia is more than incidentally affected when Russia wages war on Chechnya. The present refugee crisis follows this pattern.

From 1934 to 1992 the Ingush were lumped (by the Soviet government) with the Chechen in a single Chechen-Ingush ASSR and then Republic (abolished during the 1944-56 deportation of peoples of the Caucasus, restored afterwards). In 1991, when Chechnya declared independence, Ingushetia announced its separation from Chechnya and requested a return to its pre-1934 status of republic of Russia with the boundaries it had had then. On June 4, 1993 it officially became a separate republic of Russia, though with a large part of its original territory -- Vladikavkaz and a large area along the right bank of the Terek including several towns, the whole constituting Ingushetia's main center of commerce and industry, its former capital, and a major Ingush population center -- still removed to North Ossetia, as it had been since the 1944 deportation.  Until 1982 it was illegal to sell or rent houses or apartments in this area to Ingush.  The ban was lifted in 1982, but a decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR restricted the access of Ingush to residence permits there.

In late 1992 Russian army and Interior Ministry troops and tanks oversaw and assisted in the ethnic cleansing of all Ingush from the contested land. The nominal aggressor was North Ossetia, but only Russia's military support and participation made mass dispossession possible. An estimated 60,000 or more people fled to lowland Ingushetia, having lost their jobs, houses, and all property. Seven years later, they are still refugees, many still living in boxcars and freight containers. They represent nearly one-third of the Ingush and at least 20% of Ingushetia's population. They were and are citizens of Russia but have received from Russia virtually no aid or assistance at returning or rebuilding. Unemployment in Ingushetia is probably over 80%, and among these refugees it is near-total.

Since 1992 Russia has kept the Ingush border blockaded, with heavily armed checkpoints at all entries. The blockade has ended the Ingush trade of farm products to the Russian market (formerly an economic mainstay), thereby contributing to the impoverishment of Ingushetia.

By the time of the 1994-96 Russian-Chechen war, Ingushetia was a republic of Russia, unconnected to Chechnya. Nonetheless Russia bombed several Ingush villages, attacked the Ingush civilian airport, and beat and killed Ingush in 'filtration' camps. Several more tens of thousands of refugees remain in Ingushetia since that war.

Current situation
In preparation for the present war Russia surrounded Ingushetia with tanks, troops, and armor. The entire Chechen-Russian border is sealed and no ethnically Chechen refugees have been allowed out of Chechnya except to Ingushetia. (Other ethnicities can exit elsewhere.)  As a consequence, at this writing over 300,000 refugees have fled to Ingushetia and more arrive at the border every day. The border crossing is closed from time to time, each time stranding refugees inside of Chechnya. (In the fall of 1999, border closings were usually on occasions of recent or ongoing battles.  The refugees stranded at the border numbered thousands, and the line stretched for miles.  In recent months, border closings and other overt demonstrations of increased security mark important military holidays: a three-day closure to mark the March 26 Russian presidential election, a four-day closure to mark the May 9 national military holiday celebrating the end of World War II.)  Until late November the federal government blocked ethnically Chechen refugees from leaving Ingushetia, even those who have relatives elsewhere prepared to take them in.

As many refugees as possible have been accommodated in private homes, railroad stations, and other available buildings; the rest are in camps or makeshift settlements without adequate food, water, shelter, medical needs, or sanitary facilities.  The Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 5) describes a camp ration of 10 oz. of bread per day, the only food available.  In the first weeks of October the majority of the refugees, or about 100,000, were reported to be living in the open.  As of mid-January, the UNHCR reported 140,000 sheltering with host families, 25,000 in tent camps, and 28,000 in "makeshift spontaneous settlements".  This must mean that up to 20,000 open latrines have been constructed, a situation that presents an active health hazard until the ground freezes deeply and again in spring when it thaws.  (The UNHCR press release on High Commissioner Ogata's visit to Ingushetia on Nov. 18 noted problems of drainage and sanitation.) During the winter, many refugees in tents and vehicles, those without shelter, and the thousands lined up at the border were without heat.  Human Rights Watch on Dec. 2 described the humanitarian disaster as "extensive and getting worse".  As of mid-May, 223 tuberculosis cases had been reported among the refugees, a typhoid epidemic threatened, and with the ground thawed the winter's sewage poses a health hazard.  The Russian federal government has tried to conceal the refugees' numbers, refuses to register some of them as internally displaced persons, and therefore does not consider itself obligated to provide aid for them (CIS Observed IV:17 [Nov. 1]).  It has made no requests for international assistance and has delayed delivery of those donations that have been received.  It requires that international aid donations be made not to Ingushetia but to the federal government itself, which does not officially recognize the catastrophe.  No international bodies or NGO's are allowed to work directly in Ingushetia.  Truck convoys of aid (food, clothing, tents, medicine, etc.) from various international organizations arrive in Ingushetia periodically (UNCHR convoys weekly); some aid has also been sent to Chechen refugees in Daghestan and in Georgia.  (The UNHCR website generally gives news of its aid shipments.)  As of late June refugees had been without delivery of bread or hot meals for 5 days, as delivery services have refused to work until paid by the federal government, which is in arrears to them.)

The refugee figures usually cited are the total number that have entered Ingushetia as refugees since the war began (some 325,000 as of Apr. 3; this figure continued to rise daily until April, but has not been reported since then), the number remaining there (215,830 as of June 28; this figure has fluctuated around 216,000 for the last several weeks), and the number registered as internally displaced persons by the federal government (170,500 on June 20).  Some refugees return temporarily to Chechnya to try to rescue other family members, save possessions, or prevent looting.  Some individuals who basically remain in Chechnya travel to Ingushetia to buy food and water for their families.  Some who cannot be accommodated in refugee camps (which are full) return rather than live without shelter.  Some refugees have moved out of Ingushetia to elsewhere in Russia.  Some have returned to Chechnya and hope to stay.  Since December the federal government has strongly encouraged, even coerced, refugees to return to northern Chechnya towns under federal control.  In late March to early April returnees to Chechnya have increased.  (Ingush government figures: as of April 3, 50,000 refugees had returned to Chechnya and 62,000 had left Ingushetia for various parts of Russia.)  These various movements account for the difference between refugees who have entered Ingushetia and those who remain there.

"Meanwhile, people fleeing Chechnya continue to be subjected to bombardment along their escape routes and solicited for bribes by Russian forces at checkpoints and border crossings. Human Rights Watch collects almost daily testimony on these abuses, as well as on sporadic closures of the Ingush-Chechen border, which sometimes leave those traveling in either direction stranded in the cold and snow for two or three days."  (Human Rights Watch release, Dec. 2.)  The abuse continues, with people beaten and threatened with execution and rape until bribes are given (Human Rights Watch release, Dec. 14).

By way of comparison, the density of Chechen refugees in Ingushetia relative to land area is about four times that of East Timorese refugees and deportees in West Timor in September or that of Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia in May. (In area Ingushetia is about the size of Rhode Island or Majorca -- 1242 sq. mi. or 3217 sq. km.  Its prewar population was about 340,000, including the refugees from the two previous conflicts; the prewar non-refugee population figure for 1999 was 317,000.  The non-refugee population includes thousands of actual refugees from previous conflicts who have found housing.) The absolute number of refugees is comparable to the East Timorese refugees and deportees. The proportion of entering refugees to Ingushetia's own population is over 90%; those remaining in Ingushetia are about two-thirds of Ingushetia's own population, and outnumber the entire Ingush nationality.  These proportions are phenomenal; the peak figures for Kosovar and East Timorese refugees were about 15%.  UNHCR and other sources have estimated a much greater number of potential refugees if it were safe to travel and if they could afford transport.  Prior to the refugee influx Ingushetia was already one of the poorest and most densly populated republics of the Russian Federation.

Russia's announced intention as of mid-October was to forcibly resettle these refugees in a garrisoned northern Chechnya under a puppet government.

The proposal of the Federal Migration Service was to remove the refugee population to scattered points in distant parts of Russia: the Saratov, Tambov, Astrakhan', Orenburg, Orel, and Vologda oblasts, and also Altai krai (Segodnja, Oct. 8).

As of early November the announced Russian military goal had changed from containing Chechnya and setting up a pacified northern Chechnya, to crushing all of Chechnya.  News releases of Nov. 5-7 reported a split between the Russian government, which was said to be considering talks with the Chechen government, and the Russian military, which demands of the government the victory in Chechnya it feels entitled to.  News releases in November and December reported harassment, intimidation, and large-scale death threats to refugees by Russian border guards, and troops in occupied towns looting houses, killing livestock, destroying gardens, and killing civilians.  Taken together, these reports indicate that the Russian military at all levels is inclined to kill Chechen civilians, including refugees, when given the opportunity.  The ban on Chechen males between 10 and 60 (see Jan. 14 update below) amounts to a criminalization of the entire Chechen nationality and a statement that the war is being waged against the entire Chechen people.  From March to May there have been frequent reports of talks and peace feelers between Moscow and the Chechen government, with denials by the Russian military and sometimes government sources.

As of early May the announced plan is for direct presidential rule of Chechnya by Moscow, with a large military presence and strict passport control, followed in three or four years by the formation of new governing bodies.   An administrator has been appointed (Akhmed Kadyrov, the former mufti of Chechnya who stepped down as mufti to assume the administratorship).

The presence of the large refugee population puts Ingushetia itself in potential danger of military action.  At the outset Russia 'ordered that the Defense Ministry be informed of the locations of [refugee] camps' locations [in Ingushetia] to keep them "safe against Russian anti-guerrilla air raids"' (San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 29, p. A12), a threat to extend the bombing to Ingushetia.  From time to time Russian government or military sources have claimed that the refugees include disguised fighting men, and/or that the refugee exodus is a staged attempt to win world sympathy. The initiation of the war was accompanied by state-sanctioned rhetoric advocating genocide.  The ban on Chechen males crossing the border in either direction amounts to declaring male refugees to be combatants.  Under these circumstances, Russian troops may well feel entitled or even expected to undertake a massacre of refugees.  (A massacre of civilians in Alkhan-Yurt was carried out in early December by Russian troops who "appeared to believe that the losses they had sustained in taking the town gave them the right to loot it" [New York Times, Dec. 22].  News releases of recent months indicate that Chechen towns are regularly bombed, and/or dozens of civilians arrested and disappeared, after a Russian loss.  After a July 2 suicide bombing killed at least 25 Russian troops in Argun, Russian attack helicopters bombed residential areas and a refugee hostel (AP), and BBC reported that "terrified Russian servicement responded with wild and apparently random bursts of fire on residential areas.")   Though it is not clear whether Russia will actually undertake to remove refugees to eastern Russia and Siberia, or to forcibly repatriate large numbers of them to Russian-controlled parts of Chechnya, any action so reminiscent of the mass deportations of 1944 would be likely to trigger panic among the refugees and protests by the Ingush people and government, which Russia might attempt to put down by force. On any of these scenarios, Ingush as well as refugees would be killed.

Attacks on refugees:  On Oct. 5, a busload of refugees who had been told it was safe to return home to Chervlyonnaya in the north was bombed by Russian planes. The bus bore white flags. 28 were killed.  A refugee camp in western Chechnya was shelled by Russia on Oct. 16, injuring several people and causing 5000 to flee (AFP report, Oct. 17).  News releases and an ICRC press release of Oct 30 report that a Red Cross refugee convoy near Samashki was bombed by Russian planes, killing at least 25 and wounding at least 70. Five of the vehicles were clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem on the top. News releases of Oct 31 report that another refugee convoy attempting to return to the Russian-controlled north was struck by Russian artillery fire, killing 20.  On Nov. 5 the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development reported that on Oct. 29 elders of the Chechen village Sernovodsk, invited out from refuge in Ingushetia by Russian command requesting that they negotiate with supposed guerrillas in the village, were bombed on the way back, severely wounding one of them (no fighters were to be found) (CPCD Report, Nov. 5). Human Rights Watch in press releases of Nov. 18 and Nov. 10 review recent attacks on fleeing civilians.  A refugee convoy was bombed near Grozny in early December.  There were massacres of civilians, including fleeing refugees, in Alkhan-Yurt in late December, in Aldi in early Februaryk, and in Katyr-Yurt in early March.

Filtration camps, disappearances, and the new hostage trade in Chechnya
"Filtration camps" were established in Chechnya by the Russian military early in the 1994-96 war.  Originally set up to interrogate people detained in "cleanup" operations and to "filter" out Chechen fighters from civilians, they soon turned into concentration camps and torture centers in which thousands, mostly civilians, were held and many killed.  There were several in Grozny and other lowland Chechen cities and at least one at the federal military base in Mozdok.  (See O. Orlov, A. Cherkasov, S. Sirotkin, Conditions in detention in Chechen Republic conflict zone: treatment of detainees: a report by HumanRights NGOs Observer Mission to the zone of the armed conflict in Chechen Republic. Moscow: Memorial Human Rights Center, 1995.  Also C. Gall and T. de Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, chap. 11.  New York University Press, 1998.)
 "Filtration camps" were set up again, many of them in the same places as in 1994-96, shortly after the current war began.  Civilians, almost all of them ethnic Chechens and including children as young as 11, are imprisoned in these camps for beating, torture, and sometimes execution, and, increasingly often, held for ransom.  (See statements by Human Rights Watch, the Society for Threatened Peoples, and Amnesty International.)   An AFP release of April 14 reports an estimate of the Russian human rights organization Memorial that there are "nearly 15 'filtration' camps holding several thousand people in Chechnya, not counting police cells and underground pits at many military checkpoints".  The existence of these camps and the perceived high risk of random detention are often cited by refugees in Ingushetia as reasons against returning to Chechnya.

By way of comparison, the total number of people taken hostage in the brutal kidnappings by organized crime rings that operated in and near Chechnya in the 1996-99 interwar period has been estimated at around 1000.  (Those kidnappings seem to have ended entirely when the current war began in October 1999.)  Ransoms reported for Chechen and Daghestanian hostages taken by interwar kidnappers tended to be in the tens of thousands of dollars; ransoms demanded were higher.  Ransoms reported as paid to "filtration" camp commanders in spring 2000 tended to range from hundreds to low thousands of dollars.  In September 2000 the Chechen government's website reported that ransoms demanded range from $1000 to $10,000.  Thus the number of people in "filtration camps" during the present war is running about an order of magnitude higher than those taken hostage in the interwar period.  (Also, the number of detainees estimated by Memorial in April 2000 is close to an order of magnitude higher than the number estimated held in camps midway through the 1994-96 war by Memorial.)  Ransoms are an order of magnitude lower.  (Ransoms demanded continue to be higher than ransoms actually paid.)   Ransoms seem to be demanded much more frequently in the present war than in 1994-96.

On June 16 and 19 the Chechen government's press center reported mass arrests of civilians in Urus-Martan and Valerik.  On Aug. 18 an AFP news release and the Chechen government's press center reported 60 arrested in Alkhan-Kala.  In the first three days of September the press center reported mass arrests in Urus-Martan, Grozny, and Chernorechie totaling over 200 people; the Russian Military News Agency on Sept. 6 reported that 300 people had been detained in Urus-Martan, Grozny, Nozhai-Yurt, and Achxoi-Martan; RIA Novosti on Sept. 8 reported another 53 arrested in the last 24 hours.  For the most part these detainees are the youth of these towns.  They are apparently taken to "filtration camps".   (Source: postings to chechnya-sl in September 2000.)

All in all it appears that the Russian military has displaced the kidnapping rings that operated in and around Chechnya in the interwar period as controllers of the hostage trade.  Hostages are an order of magnitude more numerous; ransoms are an order of magnitude lower; torture was an inducement to payment of ransom in the interwar period but is an end in itself in today's "filtration camps"; and the number of Russian troops involved must be greater than the number of hostage-takers and hostage-keepers in the interwar period.

Latest news

As of late August refugees in Ingushetia numbered about 215,000; about 160,000 of them are registered as IDP's by the federal government, a status which carries entitlement to federal aid.

Late August-early September:  The Ingush government, the Federal Migration Service, and international aid groups all report that the great majority of refugees in Ingushetia will stay there through the coming winter.  Facilities are much less adequate than last fall: since June the federal government has paid late or not at all the funding for food, living quarters, medical service, etc. to which the IDP's are entitled by federal law, and appeals by the UNHCR for contributions have been less successful recently than last year.  (The Russian human rights agency Memorial reported in July on the federal government's arrears to Ingushetia and the situation of the refugees.)

Recent mass arrests, primarily of young people, in Chechnya make the refugees fearful of returning.  Hundreds were arrested in the first days of September.  (For these arrests see Filtration camps just above.)

(For daily news updates on the refugee situation see Reliefweb.)

Chronology and archive of updates (for news chronologies see also Reliefweb and the Ingush government's website):

May -June:  In an ominous development, a group of Chechen fighters struck a lightly armed group of Russian Interior Ministry troops in central Ingushetia on May 11, killing 19.  During previous weeks both Chechen and Russian military sources had said that the war would soon expand outside of Chechnya to adjacent parts of Russia.  As those who carried out the attack cannot have been unaware, it brings the threat of Russian reprisals against Ingush civilians and/or Chechen refugees in Ingushetia.  Colonel-General Gennady Troshev, commander of the Russian federal forces in the North Caucasus, has said that the government of Ingushetia bears responsibility for the fact that the attack occurred in Ingushetia (Itar-Tass, May 12), accused Ingush hospitals of treating wounded Chechen fighters (ibid.), and said that "the recent events once again confirm that there are bandits on the territory of Ingushetia" (Ingush government website, May 13).  On June 2, Col. Gen. Anatolii Kvashnin (chief of Army general staff) said that Russia might intervene militarily in Ingushetia if "terrorist activities" there increase.  -- The checkpoint for refugee entry to Ingushetia from Chechnya was closed because of the attack from May 11 to May 16.

Early April:  As the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe prepared to meet in Strasbourg several human rights groups issued reports and statements about the human rights situation in Chechnya and among the refugees:

International Foundation for Human Rights  Report of investigation among refugees (Tchetchenie: Crimes contre l'humanite.  Quand leurs auteurs seront-ils juges?)
Amnesty International:  Only an international investigation will ensure justice for the victims
Amnesty International:  The Council of Europe must support an international investigation into human rights abuses
Human Rights Watch:  Council of Europe must act on Chechnya
The FIDH report is extensive, arguing that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current war and calling for a war tribunal, a UN inquiry, suspension of Russia from the Council of Europe, and taking the Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights.
    On April 26 the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe withdrew voting rights from the Russian delegation and called for suspension of the Russian Federation from the Council unless Russia immediately halts its human rights violations in Chechnya.

Feb. 29:  A random sample of Chechen refugees in Ingushetia by Physicians for Human Rights showed that about half of the refugees had witnessed killings of civilians by Russian troops.  The levels of violence and numbers who had experienced or witnessed it were higher than for a similar survey PHR undertook among Kosovo refugees in Macedonia last year.  Statements in recent weeks by Human Rights Watch and the account of Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky reveal systematic and large-scale execution and torture of Chechen civilians in Russian-controlled Chechnya.  The people detained and executed are often civilians attempting to flee to refugee camps.

Jan. 29:  Earlier this week food rations were again cut off by the Russian authorities in an attempt at coerced repatriation.  There are 177 known cases of tuberculosis among refugees in camps, and there is risk of an epidemic.  The Ingush government news chronicle reports that Russian troops stationed in the Ingush highlands have been burning the forest cover and other vegetation and refusing firefighting personnel access to the burning areas.

Jan. 14:  Earlier this week the military command announced that henceforth all Chechen males between the ages of 10 and 60 will be regarded as potential combatants.  In Chechnya they will be detained, searched, and possibly sent to 'filtration' camps, and they will be stopped at the Ingush border, prevented from either entering or leaving Ingushetia.  The ban on border crossings prevented families from attempting to return to Chechnya, and the resident refugee population grew to about 200,000.  The ban on border crossings was later lifted in response to international pressure, but the ban within Chechnya apparently remains.

Dec. 22:  As of Dec. 21, 248,399 refugees had sought shelter in Ingushetia (Ingush government officials as reported by UNHCR). Human Rights Watch and news reports document pillaging and massacre of civilians in Alkhan-Yurt, Chechnya.  News sources report forced repatriation of refugees: train cars serving as refugee housing were hitched to a locomotive and moved from Ingushetia to Chechnya.  Most refugees got off.

Dec. 18:  Some 230,000 refugees have entered Ingushetia, of whom about 20,000 are living in tents.  Russian officials have removed thousands of people -- those from lowland towns under Russian control -- from the government ration lists, on the grounds that they should now return.  However, their houses have been destroyed or looted, livestock have been killed, bombing continues, and Russian troops continue to kill civilians who try to protect their houses from looting, and to arrest and/or beat males.  This leaves people without shelter or food for the entire winter and spring, and in mortal danger.  Most refugees refuse to return, and remain in the camps without food.  (See Human Rights Watch releases of Dec. 11 and Dec. 17.)

Dec. 2:  The number of refugees is now over 225,000 (Ingush government figures, via UNHCR).  A Human Rights Watch news release reports colds and dysentery among refugees, especially children and elderly.  Thousands are living in crowded and unsanitary conditions in mostly unheated railway cars, and those who cannot be accommodated in the railway cars are forced to sleep outdoors.

Nov. 29:  News releases report around 220,000 refugees in Ingushetia.  The line awaiting admission on the Chechen side of the Ingush border is over 6 miles (10 km.) long.  The border checkpoint was closed on Nov. 29, and 2000 people joined the line.  In preparation for a massive assault on Grozny, reportedly to involve chemical weapons and/or fuel air bombs, Russia has urged all civilians to leave the city and has promised safe passage.  Many, however, are unable to leave.

Nov. 26:  Five drunken Russian soldiers shot and killed a 21-year-old student working in a kiosk in Sleptsovskaya, Ingushetia (near the border and a site of refugee camps housing 7000) when she refused their demand for vodka.  (The sale of vodka is banned in Ingushetia.)  They then opened fire on the crowd nearby, wounding two.  The soldiers were identified and have confessed.  The Russian Defense Minister has apologized to Ingush President Ruslan Aushev and promised that the five will be punished.  The attack caused alarm among refugees and Ingush who fear that it presages larger-scale attacks.  An Ingush interviewee is quoted as recalling that the 1992 ethnic cleansing of Ingush towns in North Ossetia began with one shooting used as a pretext for an invasion.

Nov. 24:  Human Rights Watch reports that Russian troops using trucks and armored personnel carriers are looting homes in the Russian-controlled north of all contents, including food and even floorboards, window frames, and electrical connections, and also loot livestock and force civilians to civilians to turn over the clothing on their backs.  It must be safe to assume that the great majority of the refugees have lost everything or nearly everything they owned: over 60 towns have been utterly destroyed in the Russian bombings, and as of Nov. 29 Grozny and Urus-Martan (a good-sized city) are over 80% destroyed; areas not destroyed are being systematically looted.

Nov. 16-18:  In preparation for the OSCE summit meeting in Istanbul, major international and human rights organizations issued press releases and open letters on the war and the refugee situation:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Amnesty International
Society for Threatened Peoples:  Report; transmission of letter from Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov; press release
International Helsinki Foundation (to Council of Europe)
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The OSCE declaration (Item 23) was mild but important in providing for Russian acceptance of an OSCE role in Chechnya, in both humanitarian assistance and political dialogue. "Western countries refused to go ahead with the ceremony until they were sure that Russia would accept references to Chechnya in the final declaration and would not block it once the more general charter had been adopted" (Reuters, Nov. 18, 1999).

On Nov. 4 Human rights Watch reports about 200,000 refugees in Ingushetia and another estimated 40,000 stranded in the battlefield on the Chechen side.  Russian-imposed security checks create a bottleneck at the border post.  The head of the line is kept 3 miles from the border post and the line stretches for miles.  These people are without food, shelter, or sanitary facilities.  News reports of recent days describe panic among these refugees, some of them with severe shrapnel wounds from Russia's bombing of civilian targets and forced to wait in line for days despite their urgent medical needs.

On Nov. 2 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed alarm at the slow pace at which refugees were allowed to flee Chechnya for Ingushetia; 5000-7000 people were crossing per day until the border was closed.  A sealed border, with occasional arbitrary brief openings in the last two days, has slowed the refugee flow to a trickle.

As of Monday, Oct. 25, President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia reported 169,700 Chechen refugees in Ingushetia; as of Friday, Oct. 29 news sources reported 173,000.  Russia has completely sealed off the Chechnya-Ingushetia border, stranding thousands of refugees trying to leave Chechnya (Memorial Association of Moscow estimated their number at over 8000 on Oct. 27) and also preventing delivery of international medical aid to Chechen civilian hospitals.  On Oct. 22 the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights expressed alarm that the humanitarian catastrophe in and around Chechnya it could lead to genocide.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, calling the humanitarian crisis "acute", has appealed to Russia to reopen the border.

Sources and links

Sources used for this article include these reports:

Society for Threatened Peoples,  "Russia is committing war crimes and genocide"
Human Rights Watch, February 5: A Day of Slaughter in Novye Aldi
these statements of human rights organizations (see also general sources below, and the Nov. 19 update above):
Testimony of Human Rights Watch emergency researcher Peter Bouckaert to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 1
Human Rights watch releases of Dec. 11, Dec. 14,  and Dec. 17 on abuse of refugees
Human Rights Watch release of Dec. 2 on refugee conditions in Ingushetia
UNHCR briefing of Nov. 12 on refugee numbers and aid shipments

ICRC news release of Nov. 11 on aid shipments and refugee conditions

Human Rights Watch Nov. 10 statement on civilian deaths and refugee conditions

Human Rights Watch Nov. 4 statement on refugees blocked at the border

Human Rights Watch statements about attacks on civilians and civilian targets mentioning wounded among the blocked refugees

Amnesty International open letter to UN: "Humanity is Indivisible" (Nov. 3)

Today's UNHCR news briefing

Recent UNHCR news briefings, by date

Human Rights Watch statement of Nov. 1 on trapped refugees, refugee
conditions, extortion of refugees by border guards

ICRC press release of Oct. 30 about bombing of Red Cross refugee convoy:  (press release 99/62)
ICRC press release of Oct. 28 urging respect for civilians, adherence to international humanitarian law

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees press release of Oct. 25
Oct. 25 statement of the Center for Peacemaking and Community Development (Moscow) on the war and the refugee situation

United Nations High Commission on Refugees news briefing of Oct. 22

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights: Open letter to Yeltsin and Putin

Human Rights Watch: Russia returning Chechens to war zone

Human Rights Watch: Don't reward Russia again (also two September releases)

International Committee of the Red Cross: Help for the displaced and other victims

Amnesty International: Russian Government must protect civilians of Chechnya

Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV): Press releases

news releases (in Russian) on refugee numbers and conditions from the website of the government of Ingushetia

these general sources:

Reliefweb chronology of news on refugees in Ingushetia and Chechnya
Human Rights Watch:  Chechnya: Renewed Catastrophe
United Nations High Commission on Refugees:  North Caucasus Update
Website of Ryazan' regional Memorial Society and Human Rights Network Group
e-list with press releases and daily news of the Russian-Chechen war and some discussion:
eGroups: Chechnya short-list
Published source used for historical background: The Ingush-Ossetian Conflict in the Prigorodnyj Region. New York: Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, 1996.