Geneva, 20 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The UN has issued a statement in Geneva expressing concern about Russia's planned closure of camps in Ingushetia housing thousands of refugees from the Chechen war.
The statement says that Ruud Lubbers, the UN high commissioner for refugees, expressed concern to Ingush President Murat Zyazikov during a meeting in Geneva yesterday.
The UN statement says that closing the Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia without providing alternative accommodation would leave the principle of safe haven, in the statement's words, "seriously jeopardized."
Zyazikov assured the UN official that all those returning would do so voluntarily. Russian officials announced last week that the Chechen refugee
camps in Ingushetia will be dismantled by 1 March.
Meanwhile, five Russian soldiers were killed and four wounded when Russian positions came under fire 19 times in a 24-hour period in Chechnya. An official in the Kremlin-backed Chechen administration said today on condition of anonymity that the attacks took place in the southwestern Urus-Martan region.
The official also told The AP that at least 170 people were detained in so-called "sweeping operations" throughout the country to flush out rebels and rebel supporters.
Also today, Russian news agencies reported that a group of 15 rebels was destroyed during a two-week special operation in the Urus-Martan region.