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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Commissioner: Refugees Need Help

The head of the UN refugee agency said Friday that a humanitarian disaster was not yet at hand for people fleeing Russia's offensive in Chechnya but that urgent action was needed to improve conditions.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata on Thursday visited the refugee camps in the Ingushetia region bordering Chechnya.

"We would usually use the term 'catastrophe' when there is a high death rate, when there is starvation or epidemic, then there is a humanitarian catastrophe. I would not define the current situation as a catastrophe," she said.

"However, the winter is coming and there are a lot of people, more than what these camps were set up for and this is why quick action is necessary to prevent any worsening of the situation," she said.

Russian leaders have been very sensitive to reports of a humanitarian disaster, with around 200,000 refugees having fled Moscow's offensive against Moslem rebels in Chechnya.

Ogata said work was needed to improve conditions for people who had found refuge with friends or relatives in ethnically close Ingushetia.