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Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 14:17 GMT
Chechen refugees mount, food shortages

There's been a sharp rise in the number of Chechen refugees crossing the border into neighbouring Ingushetia, which says it is increasingly unable to feed them.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said about five-hundred people had arrived in Ingushetia in the past day or two.

The Ingush president, Ruslan Aushev, said that it was running out of food and funding for the refugees, who he said were only surviving due to aid from international humanitarian organisations. The UN says there are now more than two-hundred-thousand refugees in Ingushetia. It's believed that many of those arriving are fleeing the continued fighting in southern Chechnya, where the Russians now say they've gained complete control of the village of Komsomolskoye -- the scene of fierce battles for two weeks. A Russian military spokesman told the Interfax news agency that about five-hundred Chechen rebels and fifty Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

There's been no independent confirmation so far.

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