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Russian Chechnya Journalist Mising

January 26, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Russian journalist who has criticized Moscow’s military campaign in Chechnya has been missing since Jan. 15, when he last called in from the breakaway republic, his wife said Wednesday.

Andrei Babitsky’s reports from Chechnya have angered Russian officials, and the Rosinformcenter government press service has accused the Radio Liberty correspondent of backing the rebels.

Secret service agents raided his Moscow apartment Jan. 8 and seized photographs he took of dead Russian soldiers, his wife Lyuda Babitskaya said.

He last called her on Jan. 15 from the Chechen capital Grozny, and last filed for Radio Liberty on Jan. 14.

Radio Liberty issued an appeal to the Defense Ministry on Wednesday for any information about Babitsky.

``The FSB probably arrested him,″ his wife said, referring to Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB. ``He made them nervous.″

The military command for Chechnya and the FSB headquarters in Moscow said they had no information about Babitsky’s whereabouts. Journalists are occasionally detained by the strict military command in and near Chechnya, but are usually released quickly.

Babitskaya said that since her husband has been in and around Chechnya for the past few months, he has called home every day or so from his satellite telephone.

While kidnappings have been widespread in Chechnya in recent years _ including abductions of Russian and foreign journalists _ Babitskaya said it was unlikely that her husband had been kidnapped since he had good contacts with Chechens.

Babitsky, 35, also covered the 1994-96 Chechnya war for Radio Liberty.

Most Russian media have generally supported this war, though some have grown more critical as the fighting has dragged on.

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