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Russia: Chechnya's Borders Closed Again

Grozny, 2 November 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia today again closed the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia, trapping tens of thousands of Chechen refugees at the border crossing. Russians opened the border yesterday, after having kept it closed for 11 days, but allowed only a very small number of refugees to cross. Ingush President Ruslan Aushev today said four people had already died while waiting at the crossing. Aushev accused the Russian military of "lawlessness." Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday in Oslo, where he was to take part in the Mideast summit, that Russia was not responsible for the human suffering in Chechnya. He blamed Chechen terrorists. The White House said that U.S. President Bill Clinton would express his "deep concern" about the humanitarian situation in Chechnya and civilian causalties there when he meets with Putin in Oslo later today. In an interview published today by the French daily Le Figaro, Putin said he did not see any deterioration in Russia's relations with the West because of the Chechen conflict.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continued air and artillery attacks on Chechnya, including the bombing of Grozny, Gudermes, Bamut and surrounding villages. There was no verifiable estimate of casualties or damage.