A Russian TV crew made up of correspondent Yelena Masyuk and two male companions — a cameraman and a sound engineer — was kidnapped by masked gunmen on May 10 near the western Chechen village of Samashki. (NTV, May 11)
NTV correspondent Yelena Masyuk is one of the most popular Russian journalists who covered the war in Chechnya. She was among the first to meet with Shamil Basaev after the raid on the town of Budennovsk, when he was virtually inaccessible to the press. The Russian authorities were very displeased by Masyuk’s contacts with the resistance leader they considered "Terrorist No. 1." During the war, Masyuk worked behind the Chechen lines; her reports were distinguished by their clear anti-federal content and Masyuk became a national hero of the Chechen people. She maintained close informal ties with the Chechen resistance leaders. About three months ago, Chechen first vice premier Shamil Basaev told the Monitor that Masyuk was his personal friend and the most honest of all the Russian journalists. Until now, other Russian journalists believed she was so popular in the republic and had such good connections there that her security was assured.
Masyuk’s abduction, therefore, is being seen as an act of direct defiance of the Chechen authorities. Chechen first deputy premier Movladi Udugov described the kidnapping as a political act and a threat to the peace process, timed to sour the planned meeting of Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Aslan Maskhadov. (Interfax, NTV, May 11) Russian Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky also blamed forces trying to stop the peace process and expressed concern that the kidnapping will have a negative impact on the negotiations. (Ekho Moskvy, May 11) In a radio interview last week, Berezovsky rejected allegations by hawks in the Russian leadership that Maskhadov does not control the situation in Chechnya and that Moscow should therefore not negotiate with him. (Ekho Moskvy, May 9)
The Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs did not share Udugov’s view, calling the abductions a purely criminal act. (NTV, May 11) The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) also dismissed the view that the kidnappings were politically motivated. The FSB issued a statement calling the kidnappings a criminal act made possible because the Chechen law enforcement bodies cannot control the situation in the republic. "Constant attempts to lay the blame on the Russian secret services have encouraged criminals to believe they can act with impunity," the statement read. (Itar-Tass, May 11)
Raduev Renounces Terror.