Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 7

The North Caucasus has again been hit by a wave of abductions. Valery Fateyev, an aide to Ingush President Ruslan Aushev, was reportedly kidnapped yesterday while traveling with Leche Idigov, Chechnya’s representative in Ingushetia, and bodyguards from Nazran, Ingushetia’s capital, toward Djohar, the Chechen capital. The kidnappers intercepted the victims’ Mercedes along the Baku-Rostov highway near the village of Shali-Yurt, shooting out its tires and making off with Fateyev in a Volga, which reportedly drove off toward the Chechen capital (ORT television, January 11). Also on Monday, the 9-year-old son of Nurdi Usamov, the former head of Grozenergo, the Chechen capital’s energy network, was abducted in the city of Pyatigorsk, in the southern Russian region of Stavropol, near the Chechen border, while on his way to school. Usamov headed Grozenergo during the war in Chechnya, after being appointed to the post by Doku Zavgayev, who headed the Moscow-backed Chechen government. Usamov’s brother was kidnapped last year and released after a US$100,000 ransom was paid (Russian agencies, January 11).

Over the weekend, a Stavropol policeman was killed while pursuing three armed gunmen who had kidnapped the 14-year-old son of the director of a private company in Stavropol (Russian agencies, January 9). Russian media reported on January 10, that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov met with Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin in Ingushetia to discuss cooperation in combating crime, including abductions. According to the reports, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev also attended the meeting. The same day, however, Russia’s Interior Ministry denied that the meeting took place (Russian agencies, January 10).

The Chechen authorities, meanwhile, issued a harsh, even threatening statement yesterday to the Russian authorities. It referred to the trial now underway in Stavropol of two Chechen women–Aysed Dadasheva and Fatima Tamaskhanova–who have been charged in the bombing last April of a railway station in Pyatigorsk. Maskhadov’s press secretary, Mairbek Vachegaev, charged that the trial was a political “farce”–the result of a conspiracy between the Russian special services and rebel Chechen field commander Salman Raduev, one of Maskhadov’s main opponents, whom Vachegaev described as “psychologically unbalanced.” Vachegaev said the Chechen authorities reserved the right “to define which measures and which actions will be taken in relation to what is currently going on in Stavropol Krai and, specifically, in the judicial process” (ORT television, January 11). ORT said Vachegaev’s invective probably reflected Maskhadov’s pique over the fact that he sent a letter to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov asking the two women to be freed, but never received an answer.

According to prosecutors in the case of the two Chechen women, Raduev promised US$50,000 for the bombing of the Pyatigorsk railway stations. Fatima Tamaskhanova, who is charged with masterminding the blast, has retracted her previous testimony, claiming that it was extracted through torture (ORT, January 11).