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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Few Ballots Were Cast By Refugees




SLEPTSOVSKAYA, Southern Russia -- Refugees from the fighting in Chechnya had a chance to vote in Sunday's parliamentary election - but not all knew that they did.


And of those who knew, many were not inclined to join in an election run by the government whose military campaign had left them homeless.


To vote, people living in camps at Sleptsovskaya in Ingushetia had to have a special certificate from Ingush authorities testifying that they were a forced migrant.


"We don't know our rights," said Beslan Numakhadzhiyev, 28, who has been living in a railroad car for three months. "Only yesterday we had a visit from the Moscow Memorial society, which provided us booklets with our rights as refugees. We learned that we had to have the certificate. No one ever told us that.


Several thousand did participate. But most, even with the certificate, didn't.


"I decided to go to the banya today," said Ziaudi Esayev, 63, who lives in the tent camp at Sleptsovskaya and has the certificate.


He would prefer participating in a Chechen election - an option the Russian government is not going to give him. "I would like to elect a new Chechen president - that is what we need now."


Zina, 37, from Grozny and several of her friends said that they all are voting for Fatherland-All Russia because she was told that Ingush President Ruslan Aushev supported the movement and they were grateful to him for housing Chechen refugees.


But many in the camps, or in local hospitals being treated for wounds, took news of the chance to vote as an insult.


Nura Zhabrailova, 43, burst into tears at the Yandare refugee camp, where she lives in a train car.


"Our home in Grozny is destroyed, we had to flee here. I don't know where my father is, my mother, my brother and his son. I just grabbed my two daughters and ran away. Now I sit here, insulted and humiliated, with no home, no job, no money and no help except for food aid provided by the Red Cross - and Russians want us to participate in their elections?" she said.


"Never in my life will I take part in anything they organize for us! We have Maskhadov whom we elected and that's enough elections," she said, referring to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.


"They want to exterminate us. They want Chechnya without Chechens," said Kisa Akhtayeva, 39, who suffered a leg wound in a bombing attack on her way from Grozny to Ingushetia and was being treated in the Sleptsovskaya hospital. "I would not even go to the elections. I just cannot vote for an official of the Russian government."