The basic mass of Chechen refugees are prepared to return from Ingushetia to their homes [in Chechnya],” the Russian minister for the socioeconomic sphere of the Chechen Republic, Vladimir Elagin, affirmed at a Moscow press conference on June 3 devoted to the results of his recent visit to the republic. However, as Kommersant journalist Ol’ga Allenova pointed out, there seemed to be a problem with Elagin’s math. “In the course of the press conference,” she wrote, “it emerged that, in reality, there are five times more Chechens who categorically refuse to return to Chechnya than there are those who have agreed to go back.” Elagin stated that 8,000 Chechen forced migrants living in Ingushetia have agreed to return home. However, there are a total of 150,000 Chechen migrants residing in Ingushetia, and “40,000 of them,” Allenova underscored, “have [explicitly] refused to leave Ingushetia, a place where they feel themselves protected” (Kommersant, June 4).
On June 5, a leading Russian human rights organization, Memorial, sponsored a press conference in Moscow devoted to a plan, signed on May 29 by the new president of Ingushetia, retired FSB General Murat Zyazikov, and by the pro-Moscow head of administration for Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, to facilitate the return of Chechen internally displaced persons currently residing in Ingushetia to Chechnya. Two of the speakers at the press conference, Svetlana Gannushkina and Tat’yana Kasatkina, “expressed a fear that that the population transfer may be a coercive one. The refugees living in the camps do indeed want to return to their homeland, but all polls taken among them paint one and the same picture–the people fear for their lives and for those of their relatives, and they are therefore prepared to put up with any deprivations if only they can remain in Ingushetia.” The participants in the press conference asserted that they were certain that “the final goal of the plan signed in Grozny is the creation of a kind of [American Indian] reservation on the territory of Chechnya.” “It will be an isolated place,” Gannushkina predicted, “where every Budanov can ‘amuse himself’ as he sees fit.” After the migrants have been forced back into Chechnya through the creation of unbearable conditions in Ingushetia, Kasatkina added, then the border separating Ingushetia from Chechnya will be “tightly closed,” and “the irritating picture of suffering peaceful citizens” will disappear from the television screens and newspaper pages of the media. Russia will then be able to depict itself to the world community “as a contemporary, humanistic, law-based state” (Prava cheloveka v Rossii, Hro.org, June 6).