Russia denies Chechen refugees going hungry

News and Press Release
Originally published
MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - A Russian official rejected on Thursday allegations that tens of thousands of Chechen refugees sheltering in the tiny impoverished region of Ingushetia were no longer being fed.

The President of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, was quoted this week by Interfax news agency as saying refugees had not received hot meals since the beginning of February and there had been delays in distributing bread.

Federal Migration Service chief Sergei Khetagurov told a news conference: "These statements are incorrect and mostly without foundation." He said any delays in financing humanitarian aid had now been resolved.

More than 200,000 people have fled Moscow's six-month-old war in Chechnya, most to Ingushetia on Chechnya's western border. The two regions have close ethnic ties.

Khetagurov said the budget for feeding refugees was 15 roubles (52 cents) a day. "As a comparison...last year the norm for Russian army provisions for a private was just over 12 roubles," he said.

He rejected suggestions that most aid came from foreign aid organisations."To say these people are living at the expense of foreign aid organisations is stretching the facts rather a lot."

Khetagurov said authorities were preparing for the refugees' needs in coming months, although he hoped people would start returning to their homes as Russian forces consolidated their grip over Chechnya.

"Winter's over, thank God, but we now have problems linked to spring, such as sanitation, with such a large number of people on such a narrow piece of land," he said.

Russia controls most of Chechnya, on its southern rim, but the regional capital Grozny suffered such intense bombing that many people have no homes to return to.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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