The Turkish government succeeded January 19 in obtaining the peaceful release of all hostages aboard the ferryboat Avrazia, seized three days earlier in the Black Sea by an armed pro-Chechen group. The hostages included more than 150, mostly Russian, passengers and a mostly Turkish crew of nearly 40. The nine captors included two Chechens, one Abkhaz, and six Turkish citizens of North Caucasus ancestry. Representatives of ousted Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev helped persuade the hijackers to surrender. In an interview broadcast on Turkish television, Dudayev called on the gunmen to give up in order to avoid damaging relations with Turkey. The captors were arrested and will stand trial in Turkish court. (2)
Hours before the peaceful outcome, Russian president Boris Yeltsin told a Moscow news conference that he was "dissatisfied with the Turkish leadership’s actions" in "dragging out the operation." Yeltsin warned that Russia had placed warships, aircraft, and an amphibious company of the Black Sea fleet on the alert, saying those forces could mount an operation to "liberate" the hostages at any minute. Turkey’s acting prime minister Tansu Ciller responded in a televised statement that her government was seeking to save the hostages’ lives by persuading the hijackers to give up peacefully. "The ultimate solution to such problems comes with a permanent solution in the Caucasus," Ciller said. (3)
Two Hostage Groups Reported Still Held in Chechnya.