Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 238

Yeltsin’s December 19 remarks, ironically, occurred only hours before the start of a hostage-taking incident in Moscow that left one member of Russia’s security services dead. The incident began on the evening of December 19, when a Russian man seized a Swedish diplomat as he was driving into the Swedish embassy, and held the diplomat at gunpoint in his automobile. The hostage-taker reportedly demanded more than a quarter-million dollars (reports varied) and safe passage out of Russia. Police cordoned off the area as dozens of commandos arrived on the scene under the direction of FSB chief Nikolai Kovalev. In the negotiations that ensued, the hostage-taker, who was also carrying a grenade, was convinced to exchange the Swedish diplomat for Col. Anatoly Savelyev, a long-time member of Russia’s elite Alpha unit and a veteran hostage-negotiator. Savelyev perished following a shoot-out launched by the Russian commandos in the early morning hours of December 20 that left the hostage-taker dead. Savelyev had reportedly been hit by a shot as well, but Russian authorities attributed his death to a heart attack. Kovalev later said that the authorities had no choice but to resort to force in the incident. (AP, Reuter, Russian agencies, December 19-20)

Chief of Border Troops Resigns.