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UNHCR Alleges Russian Pressure for Chechen Refugees to Leave Ingushetia Camp - 2003-09-24

United Nations refugee officials say Russia is increasing pressure on Chechen refugees to leave a camp in Ingushetia by cutting off basic utility services.

A statement from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says gas, electricity and water supplies at the Bella camp were cut off for varying periods last week, and this week gas pipes were removed and electricity cut again. The organization also cites eyewitness reports of latrines being removed from the camp.

The Associated Press reports that police have barred outsiders from entering the camp.

Russia has said it will dismantle the camps in Ingushetia and relocate the refugees before the Chechen presidential elections on October 5. The U.N. agency says it does not in principle oppose plans to relocate some or all of the displaced Chechens from the Bella camp, but has not seen evidence that appropriate alternative accommodations exist.