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Frenchmen Held in Chechnya Freed

November 17, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ Four French men held since August in the secessionist Russian republic of Chechnya have been freed ``safe and sound,″ the French Foreign Ministry said today. It credited Russian authorities for the release.

The men, who worked for a humanitarian organization, were in the care of the French Embassy in Moscow, and will return home, ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said.

Laurent Moles, Regis Greve-Viallon, Andy Chevalier and Pascal Porcheron, who work for the Lyon-based organization EquiLibre, were kidnapped early Aug. 3 by armed men in Makhatchkala, capital of Dagestan. They were taken across the frontier to Chechnya where they were held.

The spokeswoman said French authorities made numerous efforts to win the release of the men.

``Russian authorities showed their will and their capacity to reach this happy ending,″ a ministry statement said, expressing thanks.

Nearly a month ago, EquiLibre rejected a ransom demand from the kidnappers.

At the time, EquiLibre President Alain Michel viewed a video taped by the kidnappers in which the victims made known the demand for ransom. The amount sought was never made public.

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