In a sensational accusation, the head of the international medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) charged on March 10 that Russian security agencies were involved in the 2002 kidnapping of one of the charity’s employees in Dagestan. “After nineteen months of pragmatism we have decided to speak out,” said Jean-Herve Bradol in an interview with Agence France-Presse as cited by the Russian Service of the BBC.
According to the BBC, Bradol said “that very influential officials on both the federal and provincial levels, as well as members of parliament, took part in the kidnapping. In the opinion of the head of MSF, they are trying by this means to close the mouths of those who criticize the situation in Dagestan’s neighbor Chechnya.”
Arjan Erkel, a citizen of the Netherlands, was kidnapped in Dagestan in August of 2002 by three armed men who were seen putting him into an automobile and driving off (see Chechnya Weekly, March 13, 2003).
Bradol said that up to December of 2003, MSF had been conducting negotiations through unspecified intermediaries for Erkel’s release. “But at the end of December all the intermediaries ended their efforts and our communications channels were completely shut off,” he said.
In a March 11 article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, correspondents for that newspaper, Yekaterina Blinova and Roman Ukolov, described their efforts to get the Russian authorities to comment on MSF’s “unprecedented accusation.” The press office of Russia’s interior ministry responded that “we can’t react to every statement.”
March 9 was Erkel’s thirty-fourth birthday.