Russia

Ingushetia Situation Report No. 6

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published
Latest developments
Despite the last week's celebration of the Orthodox Christmas and the end of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, heavy fighting continued in Chechnya (1). Last week was marked by changing attitude of the Russian media towards the war in Chechnya (2). It is also important to mention new figures of displacement in Ingushetia given out by the Federal Migration Services based on the information of the Ingush Migration Service (3).

1. Last week the Russian forces have resumed air attacks in an all-out attempt to seize the Chechen capital, Grozny. Helicopter gunships rocketed rebel positions in the city's north-western Staropromyslovsky district on Sunday, as heavy street fighting resumed after a brief lull over the Orthodox Christmas. Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, had said the bombardment of Grozny would be suspended during a weekend of religious holidays for the sake of the thousands of civilians still trapped there. But apart from a pause to allow an exchange of bodies with the Chechen fighters, there has been little respite.

Russia's Defence Ministry said its forces had encountered stiff resistance from well-armed Chechen fighters but insisted that the rebels were suffering high casualties. The rebels too have been striking heavy blows against their Russian opponents. Some 300 Chechen rebels are reported to have surrounded Russian troops in Argun, confining them to the area around the railway station and the military headquarters. Chechen forces also launched a surprise attack on the Russian-held town of Shali, 25km south-east of Grozny, soon after dawn on Sunday. A spokesman for the rebels said they had quickly seized half the town in fierce fighting, before withdrawing again. But Russia's Interfax news agency said Russian armoured vehicles had since made their way back into the town. On Sunday, the Chechen fighters also attacked a Russian field base in the town of Gudermes, in eastern Chechnya. These assaults demonstrate the rebels' ability to strike behind Russian lines. Many similar clashes are reported to be going on in the war zone south of Grozny.

2. As Russian progress slows and casualties mount in the Chechen campaign, various Russia media outlets have stepped up criticism of the war, and begun to give more coverage to pro-Chechen figures and critical voices within Russia. Sources from the Media-Most empire which backs Kremlin opponent Yuriy Luzhkov have always been more qualified in their support for the war than the official media, but they now appear to be openly challenging the official line of the Russian military.

Segodnya newspaper on 5 January quoted an army captain just returned from the fighting in the capital Grozny whose name was not given "for understandable reasons". He said that despite official optimism the army had unofficially accepted the impasse in Grozny. "They let us enter the city and get bogged down," he said. "And now our losses, which have been large anyway - the official reports are a bluff - will mount with every passing day."

Other media sources previously loyal in the campaign have begun to break ranks. The independent daily Izvestiya said on 6 January that official claims of victory in central areas of Chechnya were false and accused the military of "wishful thinking".

3. Last week the Federal Migration Service issued new figures on displacement in Ingushetia referring to the information of the Ingush Migration Service. According to the Ingush MS, approximately 70,000 IDPs voluntarily returned to Russian-controlled northern areas of the republic, where there is no fighting, and the present total number of registered IDPs in Ingushetia is 180,000 persons. This information leaves some doubts because the figure of the total IDP population in Ingushetia as of 27 December 1999 was 254,727, and it seems unreasonable to admit that within a period of one week such a large group of the displaced persons (70,000) could voluntarily leave their temporary accommodations in Ingushetia.

Distribution

On 3-6 January 2000 DRC conducted a series of distributions of UNHCR, DRC and NRC winter boots for IDPs of all age and sex groups living in spontaneous settlements of the city of Nazran. According to the registration figures collected by DRC field workers during the pre-distribution registration exercise the following number of displaced persons are settled in the above-mentioned location:

Location/Settlement
Families
Number of IDPs
Nazran spontaneous settlements
770
5132

The average number of persons per family there equals 6,6 individuals. Most of the IDPs in this location are from the city of Grozny (79,3%) and Urus-Martan village (10%). The rest are from Shali, Achkhoy-Martan, Naurskiy, Gudermesskiy Districts of Chechnya. 89,2% of all IDPs living in the area are Chechens, 9,2% - Ingushes, 0,9% - Russians, 0,3% - Dag(h)estans, 0,3% - Armenians, 0,1% - Kumiks.

A total of 4,161 UNHCR winter boots, 220 DRC winter boots, and 1479 NRC winter boots were distributed in 45 spontaneous settlements of Nazran City.

On 5 January the field workers of the DRC office in Ingushetia conducted distribution of UNHCR winter boots for all IDPs accommodated in "Vainakh" spontaneous settlement located in the village of Psedakh (Malgobek District). The distribution was based on the following registration data:

Location/Settlement
Families
Number of IDPs
Psedakh, "Vainakh" spontaneous settlement
48
287

On 7 January, DRC had a distribution of UNHCR winter footwear for internally displaced people who found shelter in two spontaneous settlements (Plievo-1 and Plievo-2) of the village of Plievo (Nazran District).

Location/Settlement
Families
Number of IDPs
Plievo-1 spontaneous settlement
150
1150
Plievo-2 spontaneous settlement
63
432
Total
213
1582

A total of 1,479 UNHCR winter boots were distributed for all IDPs there.

Total number of winter items distributed by DRC in Ingushetia so far:

Winter coats:18,667 (16,496 of which provided by UNHCR)

Winter boots: 22,170 ( 4,161 of which provided by UNHCR, 3,592 of which as a part of DRC/NRC co-operation program)

Assessments

The field workers of DRC in Ingushetia carry on the registration of IDPs in Ingushetia. During the week from 3/01 to 10/01 a total of 10,653 IDPs were registered by the DRC team. The total number of IDPs registered so far is 35,854 persons.

Inter Agency Issues

On 5 December during a meeting of the Ingush Minister of EMERCOM with Ingushetia-based representatives of international NGOs (MSF-Holland, MDM, Salvation Army, DRC, UNHCR, CPCD) it was decided that EMERCOM of Ingushetia will be officially in charge of co-ordination over the relief-aid assistance process in the area. It was mutually agreed that the meetings will be held at EMERCOM's premises located in Sleptsovskaya village (Ingushetia) on Fridays. UNHCR Head of Sub-Office in Stavropol, Mr. Bhairaja Panday briefed the participants on UN agencies' plan of action in the area, on the expected level and type of co-operation required from the side of the local Ingush authorities (EMERCOM in particular). According to the UNHCR official, UNICEF is going to bring medicine that will meet the needs of IDPs for a period of 1 year; WFP will start a 3-month food distribution program; UNHCR is planning to distribute food for host families and shortly will start a water/sanitation program in Ingushetia. UNHCR kindly requested the expertise of NGOs currently present in the area concerning the IDP vulnerable groups.

On 10 January DRC Senior Logistics Officer, Mr. Brian Graham had a meeting with the Head of Ingush Republican Migration Service, Mr. Khussein Ozdoev. They discussed the issue of major re-registration exercise that will be conducted by DRC and will cover all Chechen IDP population in Ingushetia. Mr. Ozdoev welcomed DRC's efforts. It was agreed that MS representatives will be included in the registration teams. On 11 January DRC is going to have a series of meetings with district representatives of MS in Ingushetia. The registration of the IDP population in Ingushetia which is expected to cover the total number of IDPs, will be conducted by DRC and funded by UNHCR. The registration is expected to begin on 15 January and be concluded within a month.

Last week DRC - Nazran had a meeting with the Salvation Army representative, Mr. Idris Musaev. He was assisted in preparation of an IDP registration form and counselled on the practical terms of distribution in Ingushetia.

On 8, 10 January DRC - Nazran Field Office was visited by two representatives of the Czech NGO called "People in Need", Mr. Simon Panek and Josef Pazdeka (tel.: +4202 6113 4595 4401 4137; e-mail: pinfez@czech-tv.cz). They came to Ingushetia to assess the situation and prepare for the future relief assistance on the basis of approximately US$70,000 funding. DRC provided the above-mentioned NGO representatives with the data on IDPs living in the areas of Nazran and Karabulak. It was agreed that "People in Need" will also participate in "informal" field-level Inter-Agency meetings that take place at DRC-Nazran premises. The first such meeting is scheduled for 14 January.

Stavropol, 11 January 2000.

For further information, please contact:

Tom Trier (8) 901 498 08 25
Zelim Yandarov (8) 901 498 08 23