Pro-Moscow forces in Chechnya are increasingly now capturing children and adolescents. Though it cannot be excluded that older male adolescents may be participants in separatist guerrilla units, the usual practice is not to arrest them as criminal suspects but simply to kidnap them without providing their relatives any opportunity to find out where they are being held unless the relatives pay ransom. This, of course, is also standard practice for kidnapped adults.
Amina Azimova, a Radio Liberty correspondent for the northern Caucasus, cited several recent cases in a talk show broadcast by Radio Liberty on May 20. On May 13, for example, three schoolchildren were seized in the village of Dyshni-Vedeno in the Vedeno district of Chechnya’s southern highlands; their fate was still unknown a week later. In Elistanzhi, another village in the same district, the local school was closed by an unusual joint strike of teachers and pupils after masked gunmen in armored personnel carriers burst into the homes of schoolboys Arsaev Umar and Bashkoev Bai-Ali at about 2 a.m. and dragged them off from their beds without even letting them get dressed. As of May 20, their whereabouts also remained unknown. Abdulla Pashaev, head of the Vedeno district’s pro-Moscow administration, pleaded with the boys’ families not to mount a public protest; he promised that he would locate them within 24 hours, but obviously failed.
In another recent case, the young Alvi Dudaev was also kidnapped at night from his home in Grozny. In what Radio Liberty’s Azimova called “a large-scale operation,” a motorized convoy which included five armored personnel carriers burst through the gates of his family’s front yard. The kidnappers beat up Alvi’s father and brother and drove him off to an unknown destination- ignoring his and his family’s protests that he is only a schoolboy. During the first few days after this kidnapping, the pro-Moscow authorities said that the boy was alive and that they were seeking to pinpoint his location; but as of May 20 they had stopped answering any questions about him.
Tatiana Lokshina, program director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Radio Liberty that according to her sources Alvi is about 18 years old and a senior in high school. And so, she conceded, “we have to take into account that it is precisely youths of this age, all of whose childhood years have been in wartime — who in effect have been robbed of a normal education and the other experiences of a normal childhood — it is these youths who are now extremely popular targets both for the federals and for the separatists….To a considerable extent such youths have not been socialized; it is not hard for the armed resistance groups to recruit them, especially when you consider that most of them have relatives who have died or disappeared during the second Chechen war.”
Lokshina said that the current minimum price for ransoming a kidnapped relative is about one thousand dollars.