At a checkpoint in Gerzel Raion on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan, meanwhile, a detachment of Chechen fighters under Salman Raduev yesterday released all 22 of the policemen that it had held hostage for the four preceding days. (Interfax, December 18) Raduev and Russian deputy security council secretary Boris Berezovsky had earlier signed a joint protocol ensuring that the hostages would be released without preconditions. But Magomet Tolboev, the secretary of Dagestan’s Security Council, who also took part in the negotiations, has told the Monitor that one of Raduev’s preconditions did make its way into the agreement. Berezovsky gave Raduev a guarantee that eleven of Raduev’s fighters, who had been captured during the war, would be released from Russian prisons if the policemen were freed. Tolboev also told the Monitor that: "It was very important for Raduev not to lose face, and that is why he insisted on apologies from the Russian leadership. Our task boiled down to trying to get this done on a ‘lower’ level. In the end, it was agreed that the commander of the MVD detachment guarding the Dagestani-Chechen border would talk to Raduev. They met, and came to the conclusion that both of them were doing their duty as soldiers." Tolboev added that the talks had almost broken off because of provocations from the Russian military.
On his return to Moscow, Berezovsky made an unexpected statement. He said that Raduev had been virtually forced to take the hostages. According to Berezovsky, when Raduev approached the Chechen-Dagestani border, Russian soldiers told him that he and his men must lay down their arms to cross the border. Raduev agreed to this condition, but Russian soldiers then tried to seize him. Berezovsky also said that there are forces, both in Chechnya and in Russia, who have an interest in disrupting the January elections, but he declined to say which of these forces were most active. Berezovsky also predicted that there would be more provocations in the future. (NTV, December 18)
Delegation of North Ossetians Seized in Chechnya.