Living in Russia at the moment are about 150,000 Afghans, with 98 per cent of them being refugees. These figures were revealed at a round table meeting discussing refugee problems in the Central Club of Journalists on Wednesday by Joseph Gyorke, deputy regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Russian Federation. He noted that the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US had left a substantial mark on the activities of that international organisation, and in many countries there were increasing cases of xenophobia against those from Middle East and Asian countries. While acknowledging that terrorists can sneak in disguised as refugees, Gyorke believes that "this fear should not prevail over humanitarian attitudes and sympathy for those in trouble". Gyorke considers that proceeding from the principle of "sharing the burden of migration flows", the onus of receiving refugees from Afghanistan should be divided by neighbouring countries. He said that a recent trip to Central Asia by the head of the UN humanitarian department pursued the aim of "opening the borders" of the region's countries to Afghan refugees. But Uzbekistan "refused point blank". A "more flexible" reaction was shown by Turkmenistan, Gyorke said.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea