Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 188

On Sunday, eight serviceman and one pensioner kidnapped in separate incidents along the border with Chechnya and held hostage in Chechnya were freed. Their liberation came thanks to the joint efforts of the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB)–in particular Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, with assistance from CIS Acting Secretary Boris Berezovsky. According to these two men, a large number of Russian servicemen are still being held captive in Chechnya. Berezovsky says the number is at least 400. He announced both that he will continue to try to get them freed and that much work in that direction still needs to be done. He called the actions of the MVD, FSB, the Defense Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s office in freeing the hostages efficient and well coordinated.

In the meantime, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev has other information on the number of Russian servicemen being held in Chechnya–a little more than 100 people. Raduev said he plans to try to win their quick release without preconditions, as was done–in his words–this time (NTV television, October 11; Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 13).

Again, there were no details on how the hostages were freed. As “Nezavisimaya gazeta” noted, it is doubtful that they were held for a year only to free them without preconditions. The only obvious thing is that the operation was carried out only after agreement between the government and Salman Raduev, who lately has been strikingly well informed on the fate of hostages in Chechnya. It is noteworthy that the most recent events have taken place during a sharp confrontation between Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and Chechen field commanders–including Salman Raduev. Chechnya’s law enforcement structures look all the more helpless against the backdrop of successful actions by Maskhadov’s opponents. Raduev so far has not alluded to who is boss in Chechnya, but clearly is weakening the president’s position. If Raduev, Dzhokhar Dudaev’s nephew, turns over Valentin Vlasov, Yeltsin’s missing representative in Chechnya, to the Russian side, this will decisively shatter Maskhadov’s authority. Raduev already promised that Vlasov will be freed voluntarily by his captors in two days. If this does not take place, he said he is prepared to use force to free them. Besides which, the commander of the “Army of Dudaev” is “seriously engaged” in the search for the British citizens kidnapped in Chechnya two weeks ago. If Vlasov is freed through Raduev’s actions, which will mean a victory for him, Maskhadov will have only one way to show his competence: to bring forward convincing evidence that Raduev is tied to the kidnappers (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 13).