Ingushetia: Ingush Refugees Protest Resettlement
A Russian plan to create a new settlement for Ingush displaced in a conflict with North Ossetia is dismissed as a broken promise.
Ethnic Ingush people forced to flee their homes in North Ossetia more than a decade ago are protesting against plans by the Russian government to resettle them in what they call a “reservation”, saying it has reneged on a commitment to let them go home.
The refugees, or more accurately IDPs (internally displaced persons), are backed by the authorities in Ingushetia, North Ossetia’s neighbour. Some have lived in Ingushetia since they were displaced by the short but bloody conflict in 1992, but the group that will be most immediately affected is the community living in a makeshift shantytown near the village of Maysky, just inside North Ossetia.
Last week, the Ingush parliament passed a toughly-worded resolution accusing both North Ossetian and Russian officials of undermining President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to resolve the refugee issue by the end of 2006.
Ingush legislators said a plan devised by Dmitry Kozak, who heads the Southern Federal District - which includes both these North Caucasian republics - would obfuscate the issue by evicting the refugees from their current temporary accommodation at the Maysky camp and resettling them in one designated area inside North Ossetia, close to their current temporary homes.
Most of the Ingush IDPs say they want to return to their ancestral homes.
"This is the latest round in the deception of the Ingush people, and the protection of the interests of one of the other entities of the [Russian] Federation,” said the Ingush resolution, referring to North Ossetia.
Stalin gave the Prigorodny district - originally an Ingush territory - to North Ossetia after he deported the Ingush and Chechen peoples en masse to Central Asia in 1944. When the Ingush republic was created in 1992, the lingering territorial dispute erupted into clashes between Ossetian and Ingush forces. Lasting just six days in October and November that year, the fighting killed at least 500 people.
The ethnic Ingush fled, and although some have returned, many have been prevented from going back to their homes. The authorities in Ingushetia say there are 19,000 people involved, while those in North Ossetia put the figure at no more than 4,000.
Whatever the actual number, an opinion poll by Russia’s Federal Migration Service indicated that close to 100 per cent of the Ingush IDPs want to return to their original homes.
In theory, Moscow is committed to allowing the IDPs to go home. But it has to contend with considerable resistance to the idea from North Ossetia.
Many of the Ingush villages in North Ossetia still remain officially off-limits to the IDPs, but others are designated “open” and people have been able to return.
Ingushetia’s government, meanwhile, alleges that the North Ossetian and Russian authorities are deliberately making conditions difficult in these villages so as to discourage IDPs from coming back. Some villages have no employment opportunities, medical services or educational facilities. Ingush authorities say at least ten returnees have been abducted and have disappeared without trace over the past few months.
The Kozak plan calls for the closure of temporary townships like the one at Maysky by April 1 this year. The IDPs would be moved to a settlement, called Novy (New), currently being built by the Russian and North Ossetian authorities, close to the existing camp at Maysky.
The new site is in Ossetia’s Prigorodny district, but it is not what the IDPs have in mind when they dream of going home. And in order to be granted a plot of land in Novy, they must renounce all claim to their old home.
Mukhtar Buzurtanov, who chairs the Ingush parliament’s legal affairs and security committee, believes the Kozak plan is an admission of defeat by Moscow.
More than that, if implemented the scheme would mean “a massive violation of constitutional rights and freedoms of [Ingush] citizens of Russia”, he says. It would “inevitably lead to the kindling of strife between the [Ossetian and Ingush] nations".