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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grozny Hospitals to Be Restored

A government health official announced plans Tuesday to rebuild the hospitals and clinics of Grozny, saying he expected tens of thousands to return to their homes in the destroyed Chechen capital.

Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko, who just returned from Chechnya, said an estimated 14,400 civilians remain in Grozny, having survived months of airstrikes that reduced the city to ruins.

"These are n ot exact numbers, as not everyone hurries to register, but these are the official figures we have," Onishchenko told a news conference Tuesday.

There is no electricity or heating in the city, and every hospital is partially or completely destroyed, Onishchenko said.

Although federal troops, who took control of the city after driving out the Chechen fighters earlier this month, are not yet allowing civilians to return to their homes, Onishchenko predicted many will return within a few months now that the battleground has shifted into the southern mountains.

He said the number of civilians in Grozny could soon reach 100,000.

About 170,000 Chechen refugees are still living in refugee camps in Ingushetia, he said, and others have found temporary shelter in other parts of Russia.

While many high-rise apartment buildings are no longer fit to live in, Onishchenko said that in the Staropromyslovsky district of Grozny, once the most populated part of the city, many one-story houses are still standing.

"No matter what, Grozny will remain the biggest city in Chechnya. Where would people go if their houses are standing? We have no choice but to restore the city if people live there," Onishchenko said.

His words contradict remarks made earlier by Nikolai Koshman, a Russian government representative in Chechnya, who said the federal government did not plan to invest money in restoring Grozny any time soon and the capital would be relocated to the city of Gudermes.

Earlier this month, the federal government allocated 36 million rubles ($1.25 million) to restore the health care system in Chechnya, Onishchenko said.

The money is to fund rebuilding and equipping hospitals, paying doctors and buying medicines, he said, with its allocation controlled by the Accounting Chamber.

In addition to four outpatient clinics operating in Grozny, with one or two doctors in each, a mobile hospital was added earlier this month, Onishchenko said.

The mobile hospital, which is staffed with 20 doctors and 19 nurses, has seen 1,195 residents of Grozny since Feb. 11.

Forty patients have been relocated to the Chechen towns of Argun and Gudermes for hospitalization, he added.

Onishchenko said at least three clinics in the city can be restored in the near future, and a hospital not far from Minutka Square could start operating in about a month if a way to provide electricity for the building can be found.

The rest of the hospitals in the city, including the maternity hospital in central Grozny, have suffered severe damage and will require expensive restoration, he said.

A total of 500 doctors are currently practicing in Chechnya, Onishchenko said.