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Vincent Cochetel arrives in Geneva

Press Releases, 12 December 1998

Vincent Cochetel was welcomed by his family, High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, as well as the French Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Mr. Philippe Petit, at Geneva airport late Saturday after he was freed from captivity in the Northern Caucasus.

The UNHCR's head of office in Vladikavkaz was freed in a Russian security operation during the night of 11-12 December. Details of the circumstances of his liberation were not immediately available.

Vincent Cochetel arrived in Geneva on board a French government aircraft which was sent to Moscow to receive him. Cochetel was exhausted but appeared in generally good health. He was elated that his ordeal was over and to be reunited with his family, including his two daughters, Sarah (7) and Salomé (6).

"No words can express how happy I am and how grateful I am to everyone who helped us," said his wife, Florence Cochetel. "Vincent and I are looking forward to some quiet time together now. The children and I have been waiting so long for him. But my thoughts are with the families of other hostages who haven't been as fortunate."

Mrs. Cochetel travelled to Moscow two weeks ago in an effort to speed her husband's release.

High Commissioner Sadako Ogata said she was grateful to the authorities of the Russian Federation and North Ossetia, as well as to the French government, who have worked throughout the year for Vincent's release.

Cochetel, 37, was abducted outside his residence in North Ossetia's capital Vladikavkaz on 29 January 1998. His nightmare lasted 317 days.




UNHCR country pages

Displacement in Georgia

Tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

On the morning of August 12, the first UNHCR-chartered plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the first UN assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out the previous week. The airlift brought in 34 tonnes of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai. Items were then loaded onto trucks at the Tbilisi airport for transport and distribution.

A second UNHCR flight landed in Tbilisi on August 14, with a third one expected to arrive the following day. In addition, two UNHCR aid flights are scheduled to leave for Vladikavkaz in the Russian Federation the following week with mattresses, water tanks and other supplies for displaced South Ossetians.

Working with local partners, UNHCR is now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and the refugee agency is monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which numbered some 115,000 on August 14.

Posted on 15 August 2008

Displacement in Georgia

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

When fighting broke out between government troops and rebel forces in Chechnya in 1999, over 200,000 people fled the republic, most of them to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. Today, tens of thousands of Chechens remain displaced in Ingushetia, unwilling to go home because of continuing security concerns.

As of early December 2003, some 62,000 displaced Chechens were living in temporary settlements or in private accommodation. Those living in settlements face constant threats of eviction, often by owners who wish to use their buildings again.

Another 7,900 displaced Chechens live in tents in three remaining camps – Satsita, Sputnik, and Bart.

The authorities have repeatedly called for the closure of tent camps and the return of the displaced people to Chechnya. Three camps have been closed in the past year – Iman camp at Aki Yurt, "Bella" or B camp, and "Alina" or A camp. Chechens from the latter two camps who did not wish to go home were allowed to move to Satsita camp or other existing temporary settlements in Ingushetia.

Ingushetia: Internally Displaced Chechens

Vincent Cochetel interviewPlay video

Vincent Cochetel interview

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day 2010, a senior UNHCR staff member reflects on his experience being kidnapped near Chechnya in 1998.
UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and RussiaPlay video

UN High Commissioner Visits Georgia and Russia

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres spent four days in Georgia and the Russian Federation to assess UNHCR's humanitarian operations and to speak with those affected by the recent fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.