Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 8

The Russian government appears to be beginning a new push to bring about the return of scores of thousands of Chechen refugees presently living in Ingushetia and Georgia back to the Chechen Republic, even though that republic remains a dangerous combat zone and the overwhelming majority of the refugees state that they do not wish to return until it becomes safe (the return of refugees under such conditions constitutes, as is well known, a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions). On March 6, the Prague Watchdog reported: “The first refugee camp to have electricity disconnected was Iman, near the village of Aki-Yurt in the Malgobek district [of Ingushetia], where around 4,000 people temporarily stay. Rations of bread and water have been suspended. There have been rumors that even the rations of [natural] gas will be cut down.” The government of Ingushetia was said to owe 200 million rubles in back payments for food supplies and services provided to the refugees, while “the [Russian] federal government does not guarantee its payment.” On March 8, Agence France Presse reported that “Russia and Georgia have reached an agreement over the repatriation of Chechen refugees living in Georgia’s volatile Pankisi Gorge.” President Shevardnadze of Georgia was quoted as saying: “Russian authorities and President Vladimir Putin are ready to help refugees return home, and that means not only women, children and the elderly but also those who took part in the war but did not commit any crimes.” The Russian FSB has announced that it plans to “carefully check all the refugees returned to their homes from the Pankisi Gorge,” thus subjecting them (and, in particular, Chechen males) to a rigorous filtration procedure (Civil Georgia, March 6).