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Russia: Chechen Border Opened As UN Mission Arrives

Moscow, 4 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Reports from Chechnya's western border say Russian soldiers let several thousand civilians leave the war-torn republic during the past 24 hours. A United Nations mission evaluating the refugee crisis visited a key border crossing into Ingushetia today as soldiers were allowing busloads of Chechen civilians to pass through. However, AFP says soldiers closed the Ingushetia border crossing again after the UN mission left the scene. Russia had kept the border closed for 11 days before allowing a few hundreds to cross it earlier this week. Russia's Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu -- who also arrived in the region today -- was quoted as saying additional exit routes will be set up in Chechnya. Also today, Russia's Foreign Ministry notified Georgia that Moscow wants to talk about introducing a visa regime for Georgian citizens who wish to enter Russia. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says a visa regime for Georgia -- and possibly Azerbaijan -- may be needed to control the movement of what he called "terrorists" into Chechnya.

The head of the Foreign Relations Committee in Georgia's parliament (Kakha Chitaya) told reporters that a visa requirement would violate regional agreements and could cool relations between the two countries.

In Warsaw today, the deputy chairman of the Chechen parliament, Seylam Beshaev, accused Russia of conducting ethnic genocide in his country.