Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev met on January 13 with representatives of the international aid agency Doctors Without Borders to discuss the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping in Chechnya of one of its aid workers, Kenneth Gluck. The representatives from Doctors Without Borders asked Aushev to help find Gluck, an American citizen (Russian agencies, January 14). On January 9, unknown gunmen wearing masks seized Gluck in the Chechen village of Starye Atagi. Richard Littell, an American working for the aid group Action Against Hunger, managed to escape (Russian agencies, January 10). Since 1996 Chechen gunmen have kidnapped foreigners more than twenty times. The last was Brice Fleutiaux, a French freelance photographer who entered Chechnya through Georgia and was taken hostage at the beginning of October 1999. He was freed in the summer of 2000.
The Chechen rebels have denied involvement in Gluck’s kidnapping and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov even put up a large reward for information concerning those involved (Russian agencies, January 10). Meanwhile, Britain’s The Times quoted unidentified aid workers as saying, off the record, that they suspected the Russian army of having “staged the kidnapping to gain greater control over charities in Chechnya and to deter Western reporters from going there” (Times [UK], January 11). Kavkaz.org, the rebel website, cited both the Times report and unnamed sources of its own in accusing the Russians of being responsible (Kavkaz.org, January 11). Itogi, the weekly news analysis program on Media-Most’s NTV television, noted that Gluck had criticized Moscow strongly for human rights abuses in Chechnya during an appearance last December on Glas Naroda, NTV’s weekly current affairs talk show. Gluck said that children were freezing in Chechnya and that wounded and dead children were being brought to hospitals in the breakaway republic every day (NTV, January 14; December 22, 2000).
President Vladimir Putin discussed the kidnapping with Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s provisional administration, over the weekend. After the meeting, Kadyrov said he thought that Gluck would be freed, perhaps for a “ransom or swap.” Vladimir Kalamanov, however, Putin’s human rights envoy to Chechnya, said there was little chance for a “speedy release” (Russian agencies, January 13).
In the meantime, a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)–Europe’s leading human rights watchdog–arrived in the North Caucasus for a fact-finding mission (see Chechnya Weekly, January 9). The delegation’s conclusions will decide whether the Russian representatives to the PACE will win back their right to vote in the Assembly. Last spring, Russia lost that right due to concerns about human rights abuses in Chechnya. Prior to leaving for the North Caucasus, the head of the PACE delegation, Lord Frank Judd, told Russian journalists that the mission’s goal was to be able to fully inform deputies of the European Parliament about the situation in Chechnya before the PACE session scheduled for the end of January. The delegates are interested–above all–in finding out about the judicial system in Chechnya. They plan to visit local courts and the infamous remand prison at Chernokozovo, and to meet with heads of the Chechen administration. The delegation also plans to meet with representatives of the nongovernmental aid organizations in the North Caucasus, many of whom, along with Doctors Without Borders, have closed down their operations in Chechnya in the wake of the Gluck kidnapping. Lord Judd said that the delegation would pay special attention to the situation that the NGOs must face in the wake of the abduction. He also said that whoever was responsible had undermined the conditions for the work of humanitarian organizations in Chechnya (ORT, January 14). Earlier this month, Judd, a member of Great Britain’s House of Lords, called on the British government to pressure Moscow to observe human rights in the breakaway republic (see the Monitor, January 3).
UNEASY AFTERMATH OF PUTIN’S AZERBAIJAN VISIT.