According to Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, the kidnappers of General Gennady Shpigun are likely to demand a ransom for his release. This view is shared by the Russian prosecutor general’s authorized representative in Chechnya, Lema Tagirov. Stepashin claims that situation will develop along the same lines as the previous kidnappings of high-level officials, such as Valentin Vlasov, President Boris Yeltsin’s representative in Chechnya, who was held by his captors for months. Stepashin has stated categorically that Moscow will not pay a ransom for Shpigun’s release. First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov did not rule out the possibility that Russian and Chechen law enforcement bodies will carry out a joint operation to free Shpigun (NTV, Kommersant daily, March 16).
The Russian authorities say that around 700 persons are being held hostage in Chechnya, some 100 of whom are Russian servicemen. The weekly newspaper “Obshchekavkazskaya gazeta”–which is based in Tbilisi, Georgia–has reported that some forty Russian servicemen held hostage in Chechnya had been serving in the Dagestani town of Buinaksk and were sold to the Chechens by their fellow Russian soldiers. The report holds that the hostages in Chechnya can be divided into three groups: those kidnapped for ransom, those kidnapped to exchange for Chechens held in Russian jails and those kidnapped for forced labor. It is thus possible to say that a slave state is operating today on Russian territory. According to the Tbilisi account, there is in fact a slave market in operation near the Chechen border with Ingushetia (Obshchekavkazskaya gazeta, March 11-17).
KHATTAB’S FATHER-IN-LAW KIDNAPPED AND RELEASED.