Seven kidnapped journalists freed in southern Russia
Dec. 31, 1997
MOSCOW (AP) _ Seven Chechen journalists were freed unharmed Wednesday, a week after they were kidnapped in southern Russia while reporting on a clash between Chechen and Russian forces.
The journalists, who work for Russian and Western news organizations, were released following negotiations between the kidnappers and authorities in the southern republic of Dagestan, Russian news agencies said. Authorities did not pay any ransom or make any other deals with the kidnappers, the reports added.
The seven, all based in Chechnya, were seized when they crossed into neighboring Dagestan a week ago to cover a raid on Russian military outposts by Chechen guerrillas and Dagestani Muslim fundamentalists.
Despite the end of Chechnya's two-year independence war with Russia, the region remains plagued by kidnappings and widespread lawlessness. Most cases involve Chechens kidnapping ethnic Russians or foreigners and seeking ransoms.
But the reporters were seized by Dagestanis and were told it was an act of revenge.
A group calling itself the People's Volunteer Corps of Dagestan said it was responsible for the kidnappings. The group said it would only free the seven in exchange for seven Dagestani police officers taken prisoner during recent clashes and believed to be held in Chechnya.
There was no indication today that the police officers had been released.
``We were kept in a basement of a house and we were treated well,'' said Ruslan Musayev, one of those kidnapped and a cameraman for APTV and reporter for The Associated Press.
After telling the journalists they would be freed this morning, the captors blindfolded them, tied their hands and then dropped them off at a construction site in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala. They were picked up shortly afterward by Dagestani authorities, Musayev said.
The freed journalists also include: Arbi Zubairayev of Russia's NTV network; Umar Magomadov of Russia's ORT television network; Aslambek Dadayev of Britain's WTN; and Alkha Tasuyev and Ayub Vedzizhev of Reuters.
The seventh reporter, who works for Chechnya's official Chechen Press news agency, has not been identified.
Russia and Chechnya signed a peace agreement in May, but the deal left the key question of Chechnya's political status unresolved. The Muslim republic considers itself fully independent, while Moscow says the region remains part of Russia.