Angelina Jolie has made a heartfelt plea to the Russian government not to force thousands of Chechan refugees in Ingushetia to return to their war-torn homeland.

The humanitarian TOMB RAIDER star and goodwill ambassador for the UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES spoke today (24AUG03) at the end of a four-day trip to Russia.

Angelina says, "Voluntary repatriation is only if you've given people an option of housing and safety and you don't take away their food or shelter.

"You give them an option and you ask them if they want to return home. I am asking you today to make sure they have that option."

Ingushetia is home to around 80,000 Chechan refugees - although Moscow has now vowed to dismantle all refugee camps in the region before a 5 October (03) election.

The OSCAR-winning actress also brought the case of Dutchman ARJAN ERKEL to the fore. The MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES operations leader was abducted by armed men a year ago (02) in the North Caucasus region.

She says, "I urge the people who are holding him to let him go immediately and return him unharmed to his family and friends."

24/08/2003 20:44