Did the Russian government pay a ransom, or possibly release captured rebel guerrillas, in order to win the release last week of two officials from its own procuracy who had been held captive by the rebels? According to a November 17 article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, five OMON special police commandos were killed and another eleven wounded during an operation in Ingushetia to free the two officials, seized by rebel guerrillas at the end of 2002. The Nezavisimaya gazeta version contradicts the account from the news agency Interfax, which cites a source in Chechnya’s Interior Ministry as stating that the rescue operation took place in the highlands of southern Chechnya. The Interfax version provided no details about casualties.
Previously, while the two officials were still being held captive, it had been reported that the rebels were demanding a ransom for their release. In a video released by the rebels in September, one of the captured officials said that she and her colleague were being held together with captured Russian military servicemen. But as of November 17 the Russian authorities had released no information about the fate of these other captives, nor any other details about the alleged rescue operation.