The head of Russia’s NTV television company, Igor Malashenko, yesterday accused the Chechen government of active involvement in the wave of kidnappings that has swept the republic since Russian troops withdrew a year ago. Malashenko told a Moscow press conference that Chechen vice president Vakha Arsanov acts as protector within the Chechen government for criminal groups engaged in kidnapping. He also said NTV paid over one million dollars to secure the release of its reporter, Yelena Masyuk, and her two male colleagues. (RTR, NTV, August 19)
Malashenko’s accusations were supported by Boris Berezovsky, deputy secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, who said yesterday that a ransom was also paid for the two journalists from the VID TV company who were freed from captivity in Chechnya last weekend. (RTR, August 19) The Chechen authorities earlier denied that any ransom was paid. The Chechen government has claimed credit for securing the journalists’ freedom, saying that its tough line on punishing kidnappers with the death penalty inspired the kidnappers’ change of heart. But Berezovsky said yesterday that the Chechen government played no role in freeing the hostages. He said the journalists were released thanks only to the efforts of the Russian Security Council and the security services. Masyuk, meanwhile, bore out Malashenko’s accusation against Vice President Arsanov, saying that, one day before they were taken hostage, she and her colleagues interviewed Arsanov on the subject of kidnapping. She said her she was told by her guards that Arsanov was involved in kidnappings. (RTR, August 19)
Allegations Threaten Chechen Peace Deal.