On February 5, President Putin ordered the head of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations, Sergei Shoigu, “to prepare the repatriation of Chechen refugees in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, saying that Tbilisi supported the move.” Shoigu announced that figures provided by Tbilisi showed that the refugees totaled some 6,000 to 7,000 persons (Agence France Presse, February 5). After spending several days in Tbilisi, a Russian interagency commission, consisting–in addition to the Ministry for Emergency Situations–of the MVD, the Federal Border Guards and the Ministry of Health, as well as other structures, is to work out a plan for the return of the refugees to Chechnya. The refugees will be returned either by train, land vehicle, or by air (Novye Izvestia, February 7).
The head of the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations for the Republic of Chechnya, Colonel Ruslan Avtaev, reported on February 5 that about 97,500 Chechen refugees had returned to their places of permanent residence in the republic. “The general total of the population of the republic as of today,” Avtaev said, “is 603,400, of whom 460,000 live in village districts.” In addition, he said, about 162,000 Chechen forced migrants are presently living in regions directly bordering on Chechnya, in Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Dagestan, and Stavropol Krai (Interfax-AVN, February 5).