On the afternoon of April 15, a group of unknown armed men kidnapped ten Russian border guards in Ingushetia and took them in an unknown direction. Chechen Deputy Premier Kazbek Makhashev, who oversees the work of the republic’s force ministries, arrived in Moscow later in the day to discuss the situation in the North Caucasus with Russia’s acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. According to Stepashin, the main topic of discussion would be the freeing of both the border guards and the two British aid workers held captive in Chechnya. Stepashin acknowledged that the hostages were not kidnapped by Chechen officials and said he hoped the Chechen and Russian authorities would be able to cooperate against rogue armed groups in Chechnya. (RTR, April 15)
Hostage-taking in Ingushetia and Dagestan, both of which border Chechnya, is a commonplace occurrence, though the abduction of such a large group of Russian servicemen in a republic which is both de jure and de facto a part of the Russian Federation is rare even for the North Caucasus. Last year, Chechen field commander Salman Raduev led a kidnapping of Russian OMON servicemen on a comparable scale. But kidnappings of Russian servicemen on a smaller scale, for the most part, Dagestani policemen (usually, one or two at a time) take place virtually every month, and terrorist acts against Russian servicemen in districts bordering Chechnya are common. All this shows that the Kremlin not only cannot guarantee the security of civilians in the territories bordering Chechnya, but also that even representatives of Russia’s own force structures need protection.
Large-Scale Naval Exercises Underway in the Black Sea.