Refugees queue for 10 miles to leave Chechnya

RUSSIA SAYS it has opened a corridor for thousands of Chechen refugees trying to reach the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia to escape the bombardment by Russian armed forces. The reality is that only a trickle of refugees are reaching safety.

A 10-mile-long column of refugees is backed up on the main road leading to the border, according to a small number of Chechens who have reached Ingushetia. The UN estimates as many as 175,000 Chechens want to join a similar number who have already left.

President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia said yesterday that refugees were apparently only being allowed back into Chechnya. He said the Russians "do not want people to get out of there. They believe all the Chechens are militants, terrorists, bandits, etcetera and can be treated anyhow."

Aza, a refugee from the town of Urus Martan who crossed the border, told reporters that conditions among those fleeing the conflict "are horrible. They are backed up for 15 kilometres. There is no food." The refugees who are returning to Chechnya have been waiting at the border for several days. Almost without exception they say they are going back to release relatives trapped by the fighting.

The Russian armed forces say they are avoiding close- quarters fighting with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Chechen fighters. Instead, the Russians are relying on their superior firepower. However, the Russian air force yesterday admitted that it was running short of high-precision weapons. A senior air force officer said that "a reserve of high precision weapons is available, but is being depleted". He said that second-grade bombs and shells were being used and asked the government to place "orders with industry for high-precision means of destruction".

The Russian army has told Chechen civilians to leave Grozny, the capital, and Gudermes, the second biggest town, to escape bombardment, but does not say where they should go since the border with Ingushetia is closed.

Why the Russian army is not letting the refugees out of Chechnya is not entirely clear. A military spokesman said yesterday: "The terrorists are busily obtaining falsified documents in the hope of fleeing Chechnya with the refugees." He did not explain why the Russian army was so keen to avoid close- quarters fighting with Chechen guerrillas if they were already in flight.

The misery of the Chechen refugees, packed into railway carriages and army tents in Ingushetia, has elicited little sympathy in Russia. Yury Luzkhov, the mayor of Moscow, said: "Chechnya has woken up the bear today in the Russian federation."

Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, riding high on a wave of popularity since Russian troops entered Chechnya, is under no political pressure at home, and very little abroad, to end the conflict. He said yesterday that until bandits and terrorists were "liquidated, we cannot talk about any political solution".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas