Washington, 30 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says it has received assurances from Russia that thousands of Chechen refugees will not be forced to return to Chechnya against their will. State Department spokeswoman Lynn Cassel said the Russian government assured U.S. diplomats this week that displaced Chechens who have been staying in neighboring Ingushetia would be offered only voluntary choices.
The United Nations refugee agency has appealed to Russia to postpone plans to close tent camps in Ingushetia which house tens of thousands of Chechen refugees. Russia has said it is safe for the refugees to return home.
Russian authorities have said they plan to close down the Aki Yurt camp in Ingushetia, which holds more than 1,000 refugees, tomorrow.