Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 64

On April 1, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov and Dagestan’s Security Council secretary Magomet Tolboev will meet with a number of Chechen field commanders to discuss the possibility of releasing the four Russian and the one Italian journalists who are being held captive in Chechnya. According to Tolboev, who has assumed the role of point man in the case, the kidnappers are demanding a ransom of $1 million for the Italian journalist. Initially, the kidnappers demanded $3 million for the four Russian journalists, but this was later reduced to $2 million.

In Tolboev’s opinion, the situation is being complicated, from the Russian side, by "people who inspire hope in criminals who are engaged in the kidnapping business." (RTR, March 31) Tolboev is clearly referring to Security Council deputy secretary and influential Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky. The Chechens say Berezovsky set a precedent by paying ransom for the release of two other kidnapped Russian journalists. Meanwhile, according to Interfax, Berezovsky has gone back to Chechnya (Interfax, March 30)

The intensification of the search for the kidnapped journalists began right after the most recent round of Russian-Chechen talks, which took place on March 29 in Nazran. "The kidnapping of these journalists is more than just a criminal act. In addition to demanding ransom, the criminals also made political demands. In this case, criminal and political motives are intertwined into a single whole," the chairman of the State Duma’s Nationalities Committee and a member of the Russian delegation to the negotiations with Djohar-gala, Vladimir Zorin, told the Monitor. The fact that the Chechen authorities and Tolboev are negotiating over the release of the hostages with individual field commanders is an indirect confirmation that Zorin’s version is correct.

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