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Chechen refugees on hunger strike

Two dozen Chechen refugees say they will not eat until the fighting ends
Two dozen Chechen refugees say they will not eat until the fighting ends  

NAZRAN, Russia -- A group of Chechen refugees are continuing a hunger strike in protest at fighting in the troubled republic.

Two Russian servicemen were killed and 17 were wounded from rebel attacks on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The hunger strike began on June 14, with two dozen protesters demanding Moscow remove its troops from the war-torn area.

The protesters, including four children, set up a tent between two refugee camps in the southern republic of Ingushetia.

''I want to go home, but I don't want to go to a home where there is a war,'' 12-year-old Khasena Meizhidova said. ''I'll go without food as long as my mother does.''

Chechnya declared its independence from the Russian Federation in 1991 to form a Muslim state. Moscow refuses to acknowledge Chechnya as a separate nation.

President Vladmir Putin refuses to grant Chechnya independence  

Russian troops entered the region in 1994 and again in 1999 to subdue the separatists behind the independence fight.

President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this week that he would never give Chechnya its independence, but he said he does not want the Chechen people to look upon the Russians as outsiders.

"We don't intend to act as occupiers. It's our country. It would be counterproductive," Putin said. "We understand that perfectly. We don't intend to carry out repression. Nobody needs that."

Activists asked the protestors to end the strike for the sake of their health, but they refused.

Forty-five year old Koka Khachukayeva said she is ready to die of hunger if it will bring peace.

''We are already being killed, and we want people to hear us. We have no other means except a hunger strike.''

• Russian Government
• Chechen Republic Online

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