Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 44

Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky alleged yesterday that his February 3 exchange for Russian POWs, ostensibly to Chechen rebels, was “a poorly planned action, apparently by the FSB [Federal Security Service],” aimed at taking revenge on him for his reporting on the Chechen war. In a Moscow press conference, Babitsky said that he had “no compelling proof” to support his claim, but that there were “many arguments” in favor of it. More specifically, the correspondent said that he was handed over to members of “Adamallah” (Humanity), a Chechen group which, according to Babitsky, is “closely linked” to Russia’s special services. While Babitsky’s captors did not specifically identify themselves as members of this group, the correspondent said that one of them, a Chechen, tried to convert him into a follower of Adamallah leader Adam Deniev. Babitsky says that his captors, who included Chechens, Dagestanis and Russians, at first demanded that he make a tape demanding a US$2 million ransom from Radio Liberty. After dropping that idea, they then forced him to pledge to “render help in the fight against Russia and the United States,” saying that he and his family would be “mercilessly destroyed” if he broke the pledge. Babitsky said that the Chernokozov filtration camp, where he was detained for more than two weeks prior to the exchange, was filled with civilians, not rebel fighters, and that the detainees were “broken, beaten and tortured.” He said also that the deaths of civilians in Chechnya constituted a “crime” (Radio Liberty, Russian agencies, March 1).

FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich denied Babitsky’s contention about FSB participation in what happened to him, saying that both the correspondent and Radio Liberty may be trying to discredit Russian policy in Chechnya (Russian agencies, March 1). Meanwhile, Adam Deniev, head of Adamallah, denounced Babitsky’s allegation about the movement’s role, calling it a lie “advantageous to the CIA.” Deniev denied ever having had links to the Russian special services, but said he would be proud to have been a KGB colonel–the rank once held by Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deniev called himself a Russian “patriot” and “the only person who is opposing Western machinations in Chechnya.” Deniev said he met yesterday with Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and gave him “analytical material” on how to solve the Chechen problem. Adamallah’s headquarters is located in Moscow and, according to a biography published today, Deniev received training in the late 1980s-early 1990s at the Saddam Hussein International Academy of Islamic Sciences, located in Baghdad (Kommersant, March 2).

Upon his return to Chechnya from Iraq in 1994, Deniev strongly opposed the Dudaev government, and during the 1994-1996 war organized demonstrations aimed at convincing Chechens not to fight against Russian troops. After Russian forces pulled out of Chechnya, Deniev organized demonstrations in Moscow in support of Russia’s territorial integrity. Deniev said in an interview published today that he had opposed Djohar Dudaev, Chechnya’s first president, and his successor Aslan Maskhadov, but had also opposed Doku Zavgaev, the head of the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya, who was forced to flee the republic in 1996. Deniev also claimed he had worked as an aide to Aleksandr Lebed in 1996, when Lebed was head of the Kremlin’s Security Council and was negotiating a peace deal with Maskhadov. Back in 1998, the Maskhadov government charged that Deniev had murdered six International Red Cross workers in the Chechen village of Novye Atagi in December 1996. Earlier, the Chechen authorities had accused Deniev of being behind the 1994 murder of seven residents of the village of Avtury. Deniev denied all the charges, saying they were politically motivated (Kommersant, March 2; see also the Monitor, January 29, 1998).