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Two kidnapped Russian journalists released in Chechnya

May 6, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ Two Russian journalists were released unharmed today after being held by kidnappers for almost two months in the breakaway region of Chechnya.

Police arrested two suspected kidnappers, said the chief of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s organized crime department, Sharani Gadayev.

Alexander Utrobin and Olga Bagautdinova, journalists from the town of Satka in Russia, went to Chechnya to look for a Satka soldier in the Russian forces who disappeared in the secessionist republic. They were abducted March 15 just outside the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Officials did not provide details about the release. Earlier, Satka authorities had reportedly received ransom demands for as much as $2 million.

In the next few days Chechen authorities hope to find four other Russian journalists who have been held since March 4, Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev said today.

Two years of fighting in Chechnya ended with a peace agreement last summer and the withdrawal of Russian forces, but armed groups are still active.

Chechnya’s status remains undefined: The republic considers itself an independent state, but Moscow considers it part of Russia.

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