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More People Are Fleeing Chechnya

March 7, 2000

GENEVA (AP) _ About 1,400 people have fled shelling and intense fighting in southern Chechnya in the past week and arrived in neighboring Ingushetia, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

With hundreds of people streaming into refugee camps every day, news of the destruction and violence against civilians back home has discouraged many from returning, said Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The border between the Russian republics ``is busy with two-way traffic,″ as people shuttle between camps in Ingushetia and their home villages in areas where fighting has stopped.

``But over the past week or so, only about 100 people a day have actually returned to Chechnya to stay,″ Janowski said.

``Essentially, any larger return movement is blocked by reports of widespread destruction in Chechnya, beatings, rape, violence against returnees.″

One man who returned to Chechnya and fled again said he was detained for four days at a Russian military camp and had to bribe his way out after undergoing daily beatings, Janowski said. Refugees’ accounts of violence ``seem to form an alarming pattern,″ he said.

``There are also complaints of violence against civilians by rebel forces,″ he said.

UNHCR last week took a first convoy of aid to the Chechen capital, Grozny. The agency is still studying the feasibility of further shipments.

Janowski noted that 20 Russian Interior Ministry troops were killed Thursday in an ambush in the section of Grozny where the aid convoy was unloaded.

Little foreign help has penetrated into Chechnya as aid agencies have withdrawn staff because of poor security and kidnappings.

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