"They closed down Bella today," Ruslan Zhadayev from the Chechen Committee for National Salvation said in Nazran on Wednesday, referring to the camp in Ingushetia, a Russian republic bordering Chechnya.

  

Fifty-three families had been moved to another Ingush refugee camp, but were obliged to sign a document saying they agreed to return to Chechnya or be deprived of food hand-outs, Zhadayev said. Bella had a refugee population of 1000.

 

Concern

  

Pro-Russian authorities in Chechnya have announced on several occasions that the tent cities in Ingushetia, which house some 10,000 refugees who fled the war launched by Russian troops in their homeland in 1999, will be closed by 1 October.

  

Relief agencies have voiced concern that this could mean a forced return of refugees by the Russian authorities.

  

Moscow is anxious to have the camps empty by 5 October, when a Kremlin-organised presidential election is due to take place in the Caucasus republic.

  

"The military wanted to cross the Ts and dot the Is," said the human rights activist.

  

Russian President Vladimir Putin is presenting the election as proof that the four-year war with Chechen separatists is over.