Tensions have escalated dramatically between the Russian government and the Chechen republic in the wake of the March 5 kidnapping of General Gennady Shpigun, the Russian Interior Ministry’s representative in the breakaway republic. Shpigun was taken from his jet at the Djohar (formerly Grozny) airport Friday by armed men. No one has, as yet, either claimed responsibility for the kidnapping or put forward demands, but the Russian authorities are holding the Chechen government responsible. Moscow has set today as the deadline for Shpigun’s unconditional release. If he is not freed, Moscow has vowed to cut off trade and transport links with Chechnya, along with energy supplies and financial flows to the republic. The Interior Ministry released a statement yesterday saying that it has run out of patience with Chechnya’s criminalization and would take all economic, political and “operational” steps necessary to restore law and order there. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, for his part, released a statement ordering all possible steps to locate and free Shpigun. Maskhadov called Shpigun’s kidnapping a “tragedy,” but warned that Chechnya would not tolerate threats from Moscow (Russian agencies, March 7). Yesterday all Russian governmental and law enforcement personnel working in Chechnya were evacuated to the military base at Mozdok, in North Ossetia (NTV, March 7).
RUSSIAN AND CHECHEN AUTHORITIES SPECULATE ON WHO ABDUCTED SHPIGUN.