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Chechnya negotiates for release of kidnapped journalists

December 30, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ Chechen officials were negotiating today for the release of seven journalists kidnapped last week in southern Russia.

The journalists included Ruslan Musayev, a cameraman for APTV and a reporter for The Associated Press, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a Chechen official as saying.

All the hostages were in good health, the agency quoted the official as saying.

The journalists, all based in Chechnya, were seized after they crossed into neighboring Dagestan on Dec. 24 to cover a raid by Chechen guerrillas on Russian military outposts.

Despite the end of Chechnya’s two-year independence war with Russia, the region remains plagued by kidnappings and general lawlessness. Most cases involve Chechens kidnapping ethnic Russians or foreigners.

But all of the missing journalists are ethnic Chechens who were apparently taken by Dagestanis as an act of revenge.

A group calling itself the People’s Volunteer Corps of Dagestan called Russia’s NTV television Dec. 25 to say it was holding all seven hostages. The group said it would only free them in exchange for seven Dagestani police officers taken prisoner Dec. 24, ITAR-Tass said.

The ITAR-Tass report listed the other missing journalists as Arbi Zubairayev of Russia’s NTV, Umar Magomadov of Russia’s ORT, Aslambek Dadayev of Britain’s WTN, and Aukh Tasuyev and Ayub Vedzizhev of Reuters.

The seventh reporter, who belongs to Chechnya’s official Chechen Press news agency hasn’t been identified.

Chechen Press chief Khamid Khatueyv told ITAR-Tass that the Chechen Interior Ministry officials traveled to Dagestan on Tuesday to discuss steps to release the journalists.

Khatuyev said one of his employees met with the kidnapped journalists in Dagestan on Monday and said all were in good health and were being treated well by their captors.

Russia and Chechnya signed a peace agreement in May, but it left the issue of Chechnya’s political status unresolved. The Muslim republic considers itself fully independent, while Moscow _ which cannot control the situation in Chechnya _ says the region remains part of Russia.

Update hourly