Hostage-taking: A Growth Industry?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 27

The human and economic disaster area that is today’s Chechnya nevertheless offers multiple opportunities for getting rich—nearly all of them dishonest. Free-lance Chechen journalist Mainat Abdulaeva discussed several of these in a recent article for the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung (see Chechnya Weekly, June 23 and June 30, 2004). The most horrifying is the trade in human beings, both alive and dead.

Abdulaeva noted that one of the justifications offered by the Kremlin in 1999 for re-invading Chechnya was the growing practice of kidnapping people and holding them for ransom. “We are not going to tolerate this any longer,” said then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

But now, wrote Abdulaeva, the scale of this business has reached proportions “incomparably greater than before.” In most cases relative pay ransom only to receive a corpse, usually bearing marks of brutal torture. The police of the pro-Moscow administration claim to be unable to stop this practice. The price tag for a kidnapped Chechen “ranges from two or three thousand rubles [about US$65 to US$100, i.e. several weeks’ or even months’ income for most Chechens] to tens of thousands of dollars—depending on the victim’s age and sex, and on the kidnappers’ estimate of his family’s financial resources.”