Anatoly Popov, the acting head of the pro-Russian administration in Chechnya, said the refugee camp in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia would be closed by 1 October and its 9500 inhabitants relocated to the Chechen capital of Grozny.

The closure of the camp is part of the Kremlin plan to assure the public that the military phase of its Chechen operation is over.

The plan has drawn flak from human rights groups, who insist conditions in the troubled republic of Chechnya are not yet safe for civilians.

Tens of thousands of refugees had fled to Ingushetia after Russian troops stormed Chechnya in 1999, to quash what they said was a separatist insurgency.

Russian soldiers are continuing to battle Chechen fighters, causing casualties on almost a daily basis. 

But unmindful of the festering violence, Kremlin is pushing ahead with its peace plan for Chechnya.

The closure of the camp is part of the Kremlin plan to assure the public that the military phase of its Chechen operation is over.

A presidential election has been scheduled for the republic on 5 October.

Aslanbek Aslakhanov, the only Chechen deputy in Russia’s lower house of parliament, on Wednesday joined the presidential race.

Aslakhanov’s entry brought to at least 14 the number of candidates who will contest the October polls.

“It was very difficult for me to make the decision to run,” Aslakhanov told his supporters at a rally in Moscow.

Chechen fighters, however, continue to mount attacks on Russian forces, having rejected Kremlin's peace moves.