UN says foreign staff still unable to return to Russian republic of

Briefing reporters today in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond said only local UN workers and international staff from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have resumed working in Ingushetia. He said UNHCR had planned to return its international staff – which were relocated within the Russian Federation after the violence on 21 June – on Wednesday, but the move fell through when guards were not available. UN staff are anxious to return to help an estimated 50,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Ingushetia and the neighbouring Russian republic of Chechnya living in temporary settlements or private accommodation. In the wake of the fighting between Russian Government forces and rebels on 21 June, many IDPs living in temporary settlements have received hostile treatment from the local Ingush population, Mr. Redmond said. Many landowners have also pressured the IDPs to return home. One temporary settlement has been closed and local officials have threatened to evict IDPs from other settlements. Mr. Redmond said that while there had been “a strong response” by security services following 21 June, all but five of the 50 or so IDPs who were detained have since been released. He said UNHCR has raised its concerns about the evictions, detentions and other problems involving the settlements with authorities in Moscow, but stressed how important it was for all staff to be able to return. Magomed Getagazov, a local UN staff member, died after he was hit by crossfire during the fighting on 21 June. His death prompted a UN security review for staff working in the northern Caucasus region.

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