Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 39

During a visit to Baku on October 23, Russian Minister of the Interior Boris Gryzlov called upon the leadership of Azerbaijan to extradite all Chechen refugees currently living in that state back to Russia. Gryzlov termed Chechnya “a den of terror.” “If we agreed on fighting terrorism jointly,” Gryzlov was quoted as saying, “then they [the refugees] should be barred from Azerbaijan and be extradited to Russia.” In his comments, Gryzlov seemed to make little distinction between Chechen refugees and Chechen terrorists. Returning Chechen refugees might therefore be treated by Russia no differently than returning terrorists (ANS Radio, Baku, October 24, BBC Monitoring, October 25).

In a report concerning an estimated 160,000 Chechen refugees currently residing in Ingushetia, journalist Sam Greene wrote in the Russia Journal: “Facing a third winter in the camps, more and more Chechen refugees, it seems, are choosing to get on with their lives. In the largest camp, dubbed Sputnik and home to some 8,000 refugees, volunteers have organized everything from a library to a traditional dance troupe…. The camps’ population is growing from within. In just the last three months, Bokara’s clinic has been involved in some seventy births. And of Alina’s 3,000 or so refugees–most of whom are women and children–more than 400 are pregnant…. Health problems abound. After two years in the camps, many children have developed anemia as a result of malnutrition…. Poor hygiene and generally unsanitary conditions have given rise to endemic dysentery and frequent outbreaks of hepatitis-A.”

Noting that the Kremlin “is trying to enlist the aid agencies [such as UNICEF and the Danish Refugee council] in its drive to get the refugees to return home [to Chechnya] as soon as possible,” Greene reported that UNICEF director Carol Bellamy had flatly rejected a request to this effect from General Viktor Kazantsev, President Putin’s plenipotentiary presidential representative in the Southern Federal District. Bellamy adamantly declined to participate in any forced migrations. Greene added: “Those few [Chechen refugees] who do venture back into Chechnya to check on their homes almost always return to the camps,” citing acute problems connected with their personal safety within the war-torn republic (The Russia Journal, October 26-November 1).