Wednesday, November 3, 1999 Published at 01:33 GMT
Eyewitness: No escape from Chechnya
Russian troops have sealed the border
By Andrew Harding on the Chechen-Ingushetia border
Hemmed in like cattle, thousands of Chechen civilians are still trapped inside their republic, their escape route blocked by barbed wire and Russian troops.
There were desperate scenes on Chechnya's western border as angry crowds begged the Russians to let them out of the war zone.
Frightened, hungry and exhausted, many of these people have been waiting here for more than a week.
Russian troops have sealed the border, deliberately trapping women and children in the war zone.
Occasionally a handful of refugees slipped through the Russian net.
Now the Russians have cut electricity to the republic and cut off his makeshift life-support system.
He could barely breathe, but Russian doctors at a nearby field hospital said he would live.
Still, escape from Chechnya does not necessarily mean salvation. In the hills close to the border we found 8,500 refugees crammed into train wagons, bracing themselves for the coming winter.
One woman left home a month ago, now she is stuck here with her two daughters, the rest of her family is still trapped in Chechnya.
Back at the border there was a sudden desparate surge. A group of Chechen civilians had heard a whisper that they might be allowed back into the republic.
This crowd of people are hoping that they will be allowed back into Chechnya on board this bus, to go and find their relatives in the war zone.
They are prepared to risk their own lives, if the Russians will let them, to try and rescue their relatives. The bus was eventually let through, but only women and children were allowed on board.
Off they went, back into Chechnya to see what is left of their homes and their families.