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Russia: UN Says Chechen Refugees Afraid To Return Home

Geneva, 18 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - The UN refugee agency says displaced Chechens are increasingly afraid to go home amid reports of human rights abuses by Russian troops. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva that many people in camps outside the republic want to go home but fear looting, arson and beatings. A humanitarian group, Human Rights Watch, presented new testimony today that Chechen civilians and suspected rebels are being tortured in filtration camps. The eyewitness accounts come from recently released Chechen detainees.

Vladimir Kalamanov, the newly appointed Russian representative for human rights in Chechnya, promised today he would defend citizens' constitutional rights.

Heavy fighting is reported to be continuing today in southern Chechnya where Russian forces are trying to bring the strategic Vedeno and Argun gorges under their control.