Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 35

Two correspondents for Russia’s ORT television channel, kidnapped January 18 on the road between Djohar-gala and Nazran, were finally freed yesterday. The release was carried out jointly by Chechen and Russian law enforcement agencies with the active participation of Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky, the controversial businessman who is ORT’s main outside investor. Berezovsky brought the two correspondents — Roman Pereventsev and Vyacheslav Tibelius — from Djohar-gala to Moscow.

Details of the release are still unknown. According to Berezovsky, the kidnappers kept changing their demands, first demanding money and then setting political conditions. In an apparent reference to former security boss Aleksandr Lebed, Berezovsky said the newsmen could have been released earlier "had it not been for loud statements by a certain gentleman." Lebed, who last month claimed to be working for the release of the two men, was quoted yesterday as saying that Berezovsky paid for the journalists twice: once, to prevent their being handed over to Lebed, and a second time to secure their actual release. (Interfax, NTV, February 18) Berezovsky indirectly confirmed that Moscow paid ransom for the two journalists.

In Chechnya, much of which was destroyed by the Russian army and where most of the population is unemployed, the hostage trade is a common business. Similar things happened during the Caucasian wars of the mid-19th century, when the Caucasus was "pacified" by Russian troops and incorporated into the Russian empire.

Kremlin Furious as Rumor Mill Works Overtime.