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Chechnyans Free 11 Russians

September 6, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ A group led by Russia’s ex-security chief Alexander Lebed helped free 11 Russian hostages in the breakaway republic of Chechnya, news agencies reported Monday.

The hostages _ two civilians and nine soldiers who served near Chechnya _ were taken on Monday to the Black Sea region of Stavropol, northwest of Chechnya, Interfax news agency reported.

Lebed’s mission said no ransom was paid.

The mission, set up by Lebed 18 months ago, has helped secure the release of 91 hostages, Interfax said. It has insisted it pays no ransom, but has never disclosed the circumstances of hostages’ release.

Lebed helped negotiate the end of Chechnya’s 1994-96 war for independence, and appears to be one of few Russian politicians with any credibility in the breakaway republic.

The peace deal left Chechnya’s political status unresolved, but the republic has de facto independence. It is also somewhat lawless.

Since the end of the war, more than 1,000 people have been kidnapped in and near Chechnya, mostly for ransom.

Lebed is now governor of the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia, and is considered a contender for Russia’s 2000 presidential election.

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