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Chechnya: U.S. Questions Russian Closure Of Refugee Camp

Washington, 4 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says it is seeking an explanation from Moscow over Russia's closure of a tent camp that housed Chechen refugees. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. government was "greatly concerned" by the closure of the Aki Yurt camp in Ingushetia. Reeker called the camp closure "essentially a forced eviction" of some estimated 2,700 Chechens who were living there. He said it is not clear that Russia is providing adequate alternate shelter for those who were forced to leave.

Russian officials have denied forcing Chechens to return to their war-torn republic by closing the camp. Last week, the State Department said Moscow had assured U.S. diplomats that the closure of the camp would not result in the forcible return of refugees to Chechnya.

On a related matter, the State Department spokesman said the U.S. has no reason to question a Danish decision to reject Moscow's request to extradite Chechen separatist figure Akhmed Zakaev to face terrorism charges.

Zakaev was released from Danish detention yesterday. Russian officials have denounced the action as "political."