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Sadaka Ogata
exclusive BBC interview
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The BBC's Peter Biles
Sadako Ogata believes Russia could do more
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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 17:50 GMT
UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'
Chechen refugees need help to survive the winter

The head of the United Nations refugee agency, Sadako Ogata, has said the refugee crisis in the North Caucasus is "not a catastrophe", though further aid is vitally needed.

Battle for the Caucasus
The refugees who fled from Chechnya to Ingushetia needed help to survive the winter, she said, to prevent a possible catastrophe from occurring.

Speaking in Moscow on Friday, after returning from refugee camps on the Chechen border, she also said Russia should do more to provide security for aid workers.

"If you are operating in an area where criminality is very high, we have to have some better assurance of safety coverage for the people who are going to come and help," she told the BBC.

"This safety assurance is what I have come to really insist on."

According to official Russian statistics more than 217,000 people have fled the Russian assault on Chechnya.

Most are in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, accommodated in camps of tents and railway wagons, which Mrs Ogata visited on Thursday.

"I did see many people who left Chechnya, frightened, traumatised and injured," she said.

"The current assistance given to some 200,000 people could be improved."

Click
here to see a map of the region

She said the current situation could not be described as a catastrophe, under UN criteria, because of the absence of a high death rate and epidemics among the refugees.

The UN refugee agency has been providing 100 tonnes of supplies per week for the refugees over the last three weeks.

Sadako Ogata: insisting on security
Mrs Ogata said she wanted to double that amount as soon as the Russians could provide security for UN workers.

Armed gangs have kidnapped hundreds of foreign and Russian citizens in the North Caucasus region over the last two years.

Earlier Mrs Ogata said 200 tents would be shipped to refugee camps next week, and Ingush families hosting refugees would receive supplies.

"We will try to see that we can bring in some assistance," she said. "But also try to see how much these civilians can be exempt from this terrible fate that they are exposed to."

A local doctor, Bashir Bogatyrov, told Mrs Ogata during her field trip that he had treated many civilians with shrapnel wounds from Russian bombs and shells.

In Moscow she told the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, of her serious concern over the number of civilian casualties.

The president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, has repeatedly appealed for more help to deal with the influx of refugees.

He says they are meant to receive a loaf of bread and one hot meal a day, but sometimes do not, due to shortages.

Russian authorities say that more and more refugees are returning to Chechnya as areas under Russian control are stabilised.

Some refugees say this is because conditions in the camps are inadequate.




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See also:
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Chechen town falls without a fight
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Chechnya overshadows security accords
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: East-West relations must shift
18 Nov 99 |  Europe
UN envoy inspects Chechen camps
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Russia yields to summit pressure
18 Nov 99 |  Europe
Tricky task at Istanbul summit
17 Nov 99 |  Europe
Yeltsin warns critics over Chechnya

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