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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Tempts Refugees With Food

The 150,000 Chechen refugees living in Ingushetia must return to Chechnya by the end of June if they want to receive government food supplies, said officials from the pro-Moscow Chechen government.

The Chechen government previously had given refugees until the end of the year, but last week Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov signed a decree moving the deadline forward, his spokeswoman Alla Vlazneva said Wednesday.

Click here to read our special report on the Conflict in Chechnya.

"We need to raise the republic from the ashes," she said in a telephone interview from Grozny. "Who else will do it if not Chechen residents?"

Those who decide to stay in peaceful Ingushetia will still receive aid provided by dozens of humanitarian organizations working in the republic, according to Danish Refugee Council spokesman Zelim Yandarov, who is based in Stavropol.

His group, which has the biggest aid operation in Ingushetia and Chechnya, distributes food parcels under the UN World Food Program.

The federal government is supposed to supply the refugees in Ingushetia with hot food and bread — spending 15 rubles per person per day — but it has not done so for two months, Interfax reported, citing Ingush President Ruslan Aushev.

Ilyasov's government says refugees who move back to Chechnya will be given food.

But it is not the fear of going hungry in Chechnya that is keeping refugees in Ingushetia.

People are not willing to return while military actions are still going on and many are afraid of federal troops.

"I have just come from Argun," said Zaina, who did not want her last name printed, in a telephone interview from her Moscow home.

"Every day people are dying there. Cleansing operations are on often, and the behavior of the federal troops is insulting and humiliating to us. I am not going to return to Chechnya in the next 10 years."

Eliza Musayeva, who heads the office of the Memorial human rights organization in the Ingush capital, Nazran, said envoys from Ilyasov's government and Akhmad Kadyrov's administration are "softly pushing people back to Chechnya from the Ingush camps."

"They promise them they will be paid up to 300,000 rubles if they come back," she said Wednesday by telephone from Nazran.

"But nothing is being paid there, and they can't return [to Ingushetia] because the Ingush branch of the Nationalities and Migration Ministry refuses to register them in Nazran a second time."

Vlazneva denied any such promises are being given.

She said refugees who go back to Chechnya will dismantle homes that cannot be restored and use the salvaged construction materials for their own homes.

"Moscow does not give us money now," she said. "We have to cope ourselves."

Only 354 Chechens from the camps in Ingushetia have moved to newly opened refugee centers in Chechnya, Vlazneva said.

Seven centers have been opened in Argun, a still-volatile town not far from Grozny, and in three villages close to the border with Ingushetia: Znamenskaya, Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya.

Some refugees have been housed in renovated dormitories and other buildings; some in tent camps.

Five more centers are to open soon in these same locations and 10 in Grozny by the end of June, she said.

It was not clear if the centers could accommodate all 150,000 refugees in Ingushetia.

The centers in Grozny are designed for 15,000, Vlazneva said.

If the military campaign in Chechnya goes on unchanged, Aushev said, most Chechen refugees will spend another winter in Ingushetia, where conditions are bad.

"Having such a lot of people in Ingushetia, whose own population is only 315,000, is a big burden for us and we would be only too happy if all of them went back to Chechnya," Aushev was quoted as saying.

But the refugees should not return to Chechnya until they receive guarantees that their basic human rights will be protected, he added.

"Now after every cleansing operation in Chechnya, we have new streams of refugees coming here," Aushev said.