The commander of Russian Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya warned the Chechen leadership in a strongly worded memorandum on December 15 that the seizure of 22 Russian policemen on the Chechen-Dagestani border could slow the withdrawal of federal forces from the republic. (Interfax, December 15) The 22 men, members of the Penza OMON, were seized December 14 on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan by Chechen field commander Salman Raduev, famous for his hostage-taking raid on the Dagestani city of Kizlyar last January. Raduev said he was protesting the illegality of the presidential elections to be held in Chechnya on January 27. He said Chechnya already has a president — Djokar Dudaev — and that Dudaev is alive. The same day, Raduyev’s fighters seized a UN official and his interpreter, but freed them in a few hours. (NTV, December 15)
Chechen prime minister Aslan Maskhadov instructed his staff to resolve the matter, and Interior Minister Kazbek Makhachev went to Gudermes to negotiate with Raduev. Speaking live on NTV, Chechen deputy premier Movladi Udugov called the incident a deliberate provocation, intended to disrupt the withdrawal of Russian troops from the republic. Udugov expressed the hope that the border guards would be freed as early as December 16. Udugov dismissed Raduev’s claim that Dudaev was still alive. (NTV, December 15)
Hostage-Taking Reveals Split Between Chechen Leaders.