bizarre incident continues to have repercussions in both Russia and Chechnya: On November 12, elite Russian military units apparently succeeded in capturing the notorious kidnapper and criminal Arbi Baraev, a key leader of the Chechen Wahhabis. Baraev was then set free by a large armed force headed by the pro-Moscow mayor of Djohar [Grozny], Bislan Gantamirov (see Chechnya Weekly, November 20, 2000).
On December 25, the Russian military released a list of biographies of Chechen separatist military commanders and political leaders (Utro website, December 25). In the section devoted to Baraev one reads: “He is the organizer of more than seventy kidnappings of foreign citizens, of the plenipotentiary representative of the president of Russia [Boris Yeltsin], Valentin Vlasov, of employees of the FSB, of journalists from NTV and ORT, of businessmen and of clergymen. He has organized attacks on military personnel and on policemen. According to operational intelligence, he is located in Grozny.” The listing concluded by noting caustically that Baraev “makes use of documents identifying himself as an employee of the Russian special services,” that is, that he is under special FSB protection.
In an interview published in the December 22 issue of Rossiiskaya gazeta, the acting procurator of Chechnya, Vsevolod Chernov, denied that Baraev had been seized but volunteered that “no less dangerous bandits” had indeed been unlawfully released by Gantamirov. Four days later, however, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, insisted in an interview with Itar-Tass that “Baraev was in the hands of the federal troops for a brief period of time.” The members of the Russian military units who had taken part in the effort to capture Baraev would, he said, be recommended for state awards (Itar-Tass, December 26).