Saturday July 23, 2005
World News - The News International, Pakistan
Dozens flee Chechen village for second time
NALCHIK, Russia: Dozens of residents of a Chechen village have fled to a neighboring Russian region for the second time in two months, officials said Friday, in what human rights activists said was an attempt to escape abuses by local security forces.
Thirty residents of the Borozdinovskaya village fled their homes and crossed into the neighboring province of Dagestan on Thursday, settling in the town of Kizlyar, the Chechen president’s press service said.
But Vyacheslav Burov, Kizlyar’s top official, said that up to 80 residents fled to his town on Thursday and still more came Friday, their makeshift tent camp now numbering over 100 people. Hundreds of Borozdinovskaya residents virtually the entire village spent two weeks in the Kizlyar camp in June after security forces conducted a brutal raid in their village, killing one elderly villager and leaving 11 others missing and feared dead. Chechnya has been locked in a separatist conflict for much of the past decade, and human rights groups accuse Russian forces and their local allies of repeated abuses against civilians, including kidnappings and extra judicial killings.
But the June 4 raid pitted ethnic Chechens against ethnic Dagestanis,marking the first serious conflict between the two groups.
Villagers blamed the raid on members of the Vostok battalion, comprised mostly of ethnic Chechens but subordinate to the Russian military. Residents returned in late June only after President Vladimir Putin’s top envoy to southern Russia, Dmitry Kozak intervened and Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov offered safety guarantees and compensation. Saigid Murtuzaliev, a Dagestani lawmaker who helped mediate the crisis, speculated that it was the slow provision of compensation that prompted the villagers to flee to Dagestan for the second time.
Human rights groups, however, said Borozdinskaya residents were driven by fear for their safety. "In all of Chechnya I haven’t seen a place where people would be as scared,’’ said Svetlana Gannushkina, an activist with the Russian human rights group Memorial.