Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 6

On January 31, Russian state television (RTR) broadcast a statement by Vladimir Elagin, the newly appointed minister for coordinating the activity of the federal organs of power for the socio-economic development of the Chechen Republic. “We need,” Elagin asserted, “to return the refugees [from Ingushetia to Chechnya] today. People need to return to rebuild their homes” (RTR, Vesti, January 31).

In a lengthy interview with the weekly Itogi magazine (no. 4, 2001), Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces faction in the State Duma, commented on the state of the Chechen refugee camps located in Ingushetia. “It is a disgrace,” Nemtsov observed, “that Russia does not occupy itself with the fate of its own citizens. In Ingushetia alone there are now from 120,000 to 150,000 refugees…. But in the [refugee] camps they at least do not have to worry about their lives–no one is shooting there. But even their existence there is more than half supported by international organizations, which is in itself a disgrace…. They [international organizations] support the schools which have opened in the camps, they bring in medicine and frequently groceries, and sometimes even lumber. We were witnesses of how [before the kidnapping of Kenneth Gluck] the Danish Fund was transporting a huge amount of saw-timber to rebuild homes in Chechnya…. By the way, they were held up at a [Russian] checkpoint. I don’t know if they let them through or not. Only a third of the humanitarian aid is Russian–from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Health and the [Ministry for Federal Affairs].”

And Nemtsov continued his indictment: “We do not have a state program to help refugees. And there is no line in the state budget for refugees. It is as if this problem did not exist. Why is that happening? Because today the policy of the federal authorities with regard to the refugees pursues one single goal-to pressure them all out [of Ingushetia] back into Chechnya. However, they can return to Chechnya only if there are guarantees concerning security and a place to live. Are they supposed to return to those ruins where there is shooting from morning to evening?” Nemtsov then recalled a conversation he had had with a young Chechen woman in one of the camps: “She said to me: ‘You [Russians] are destroying us, you have organized a genocide for us, but we will out-reproduce you.’ The woman claimed that over the past year, in the Ingush camps alone, there had been born 15,000 children, about 10,000 of whom were boys. ‘In time they will all go into the partisans,’ she said. In order for the refugees to return [to Chechnya] and for those small boys not to flock into the partisans, we need a full-scale program for the regulation of Chechnya.” Nemtsov revealed that later this month he would be presenting a new five-point plan on regulating the situation in Chechnya.

In an article appearing in the same issue of Itogi magazine, journalist Galina Koval’skaya observed concerning the Chechen refugees located in the camps in Ingushetia: “They know that it is dangerous for them to live in Chechnya: All of them have acquaintances who have disappeared without trace after being arrested at a checkpoint or during a ‘mopping-up’ operation,’ or who were incarcerated in ‘filtration’ camps and returned from them hopeless invalids…. They also understand that, at any moment, the rebels can come into a city or village, and then the bombing [by the federal forces] and shooting will begin.”