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Russian Captives Tell Fellow Soldiers Not To Fight in Chechnya

January 29, 1996

GROZNY, Russia (AP) _ Russian servicemen held hostage by Chechen separatists appealed to fellow soldiers not to fight in Chechnya, and accused the government of ignoring their plight.

``Whoever wants to come here, let them come. But I would say, stay away boys. You will end up like us. Nobody cares. Sooner or later they’ll kill us and then blame it on the Chechens,″ one hostage, interviewed on condition of anonymity Sunday in a rebel hideout, told Associated Press Television.

The 17 Interior Ministry troops are held by rebel commander Salman Raduyev, who escaped a devastating Russian attack two weeks ago on the southern village of Pervomayskaya, in the republic of Dagestan. Raduyev’s fighters have taken reporters to talk to the men.

The rebels have repeatedly said they are ready to exchange the servicemen, who had surrendered in Pervomayskaya, for Chechen fighters captured by Russian troops.

Rebel spokesman Movladi Ugudov told the ITAR-Tass news agency Monday that the exchange could take place as soon as the Russians agree to an ``all-for-all″ swap.

There has been no formal response from federal authorities, and negotiations to free the hostages have been conducted by officials of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya. The rebels have demanded the presence of federal military representatives.

Talks resumed Monday after an inconclusive round last week, the Interfax news agency said.

The soldiers, whose unit is from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, were being held in the snow-covered Caucasus Mountains. They said they felt abandoned.

``The president has written us off and declared a day of mourning in Novosibirsk although the 17 of us are still alive, at least for now,″ the hostage serviceman said.

Another hostage, who also refused to give his name, said Russians were not aware what kind of war had been waged since Russian troops entered Chechnya 14 months ago.

``They show the Chechens as bandits who kill indiscriminately and they show us the Russians as the good guys,″ he said. ``But if you take a closer look, see how we flatten villages with rocket launchers and kill the innocent or detain them in concentration camps ... Well, you change your mind pretty quickly.″

It was not clear whether he spoke freely.

The Chechen rebels, who are trying to drive Russian forces out of the secessionist southern republic, have kept up pressure on federal forces and also have staged hostage-takings.

On Monday, rebel gunmen kidnapped the prior of the only Russian Orthodox church in the Chechen capital, Grozny, the pro-Moscow Chechen government told Interfax.

Father Anatoly was returning from the Chechen town of Urus-Martan with a representative of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, who arrived in Chechnya to try to negotiate a prisoner swap.

Several dozen Russian construction and energy workers also have been kidnapped in Chechnya recently by separatist groups.

The Russian military command said 20 separate attacks over the previous 24 hours had left three servicemen dead and eight wounded. Russian troops captured eight rebels and killed one in a firefight in Grozny, Interfax quoted pro-Moscow Chechen officials as saying.

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