Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 98

In a twenty-minute speech at yesterday’s celebration, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov promised to end the crime wave in the republic and free seven kidnapped Russian journalists. There is no doubting Maskhadov is serious. According to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry, search parties had almost reached the place where the Russian journalists were being held when the kidnappers managed to move them to another location. Several hostages (though not the journalists) were released, and ten kidnappers were arrested. The kidnappers will be tried by a Shariat court and, if found guilty, will face public execution. (NTV, May 18)

Clearly it is a point of honor for the Chechen authorities to free the journalists. Only by so doing can Maskhadov prove that he controls the situation in the republic. First Deputy Premier Shamil Basaev, one of the republic’s most influential field commanders, has promised a reward of $100,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the journalists’ release.

Despite the government’s sincerity, it will not be easy to free the journalists, and the government has not yet received any information from the population as to their whereabouts. Correspondents of the Russian TV program "Vzglyad," however, have been able to meet with the journalists and were even able to interview them. The situation is reminiscent of that which took shape during the war. Although the leaders of the Chechen resistance were wanted by the federal authorities, journalists were able to interview them without much trouble. (ORT, May 16; NTV, May 18)

Afghan War Hero Charged over Massacre.