The Chechen authorities failed yesterday in a bid to free British aid workers Camilla Carr and Jon James, who have been held hostage since last July. One Chechen serviceman and one suspected hostage-taker were killed, and a number on both sides were wounded, when the authorities launched an operation in the town of Urus-Martan, where they believed the hostages were been kept. But they said the abductors had been tipped off: The raiding party was ambushed and the operation was abandoned after the abductors threatened to kill the hostages. (NTV, March 16) The Chechen authorities say they know the identities of the kidnappers and that they are people who formerly served in the security force and who have links with people continuing to serve.
Meanwhile, Chechen Prime Minister Shamil Basaev is seeking to coopt maverick field commander Salman Raduev by inviting him to join the government as deputy minister of defense. Raduev, son-in-law of Chechnya’s first president, commands the independent "Army of General Dudaev" and led the raids on the Dagestani towns of Kizlyar and Pervomaiskoe in January 1996. His independent force has been a thorn in Grozny’s side ever since the withdrawal of Russian troops since Basaev has refused to disarm his men or to integrate them into the republic’s armed forces. Recently, he claimed to have been involved in the attempt on the life of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze — a claim that embarrassed official Grozny even though no one took it seriously. Basaev’s plan is that, if Raduev accepts a post in the government, his militia will be integrated into the republic’s army. Raduev has so far refused to commit himself. (NTV, March 16)
Chernomyrdin Concedes Russian Defeat on Oil Pipeline.