Dozens of Jewish refugees from the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya arrived in Israel this week on a special flight organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The first of three refugee groups, comprising 32 individuals, arrived in Israel on Tuesday. They were taken to hotels or to the homes of relatives and friends, Agency officials said.
During the pat tow months, the refugees have been fleeing the embattled Chechen province for the northern Caucasus city of Nalchick, where Jewish Agency emissaries helped them obtain the necessary travel documents.
About 40 Jewish families, comprising some 150 people, remain in the Chechen capital of Grozny, according to Agency officials.
The officials said that contact with them has been cut off because of recent shelling by Russian army troops.
Fighting in the region escalated this week following Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s decision to send troops to the region to quell the republic’s rebellion against Russian rule. Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991, but Russia never recognized the move.
Some 27 Jewish refugees still remain in Nalchik, where most of the refugees were arriving without food, clothing or other basic necessities. Agency officials said.
Baruch Gur, director of the Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union department at the Jewish Agency, said the agency had not encouraged the refugees of flee Chechnya.
“They came on their own. It’s not a case where our emissaries went into the city to bring them,” he said, adding that the local government of Nalchik “was very helpful in assisting to get the right documents to leave.”
About 1,500 Jews previously lived in Chechnya, but most left for Israel during the past five years.
Those still in Chechnya, according to Gur, have decided to remain for personal reasons, including mixed marriages, old or because they do not want to abandon their property.