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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Refugees Request 2nd Kazakh Exile

NAZRAN, Ingushetia -- Thousands of refugees sheltering in camps near Chechnya asked Kazakhstan on Tuesday for the right to return to the country to which Stalin exiled the entire Chechen nation for a decade.

"For the Chechen people, Kazakhstan is like a second homeland," said the open letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"We have decided to ask you to help by giving the Chechen refugees asylum in the republic of Kazakhstan," said the letter, signed by Popular Unity -- a group uniting a large portion of the 150,000 refugees sheltering in regions bordering Chechnya.

During World War II, the Chechen nation was deported to Central Asia en masse by Josef Stalin, who accused them of having helped the invading Germans.

Zina Zaurbekova, 60, who lives in a leaky tent with three of her children, said she would rather return to exile on the bleak Kazakh steppe.

"Of course it would be better there, there would be no Russian soldiers," Zaurbekova said.