Chechnya: Russian government must order the release of Radio Liberty
Russian television broadcast a video tape of a message from Babitsky
on 8 February which stated that he was 'ok' but that he wanted to return
home. The date and place of the message remain a mystery.
The tape was delivered and sold for $300 to the Moscow office of Radio
Liberty on 6 February by a man who identified himself as 'Aleksey', a
Chechen from Istanbul. 'Aleksey' reportedly arrived in a grey 'Mercedes'
and was accompanied by another man, 'Mairbek', who was dressed in a fatigue
uniform with Russian special troops (OMON) and Russian Ministry of Internal
Affairs badges. 'Aleksey' reportedly said that Babitsky is being held by
Chechens in Alkhazurovo, and that he may re-emerge shortly in Poland.
However, according to another media report and Radio Liberty, Andrey
Babitsky was last seen on 7 February -- the day after the message was
allegedly taped -- at Gudermes, Chechnya's second city which is under
Russian control. The eyewitnesses, who wished to remain unidentified,
allegedly saw him with members of the militia of pro-Russian Chechen leader
Bislan Gantamirov, but it was unclear whether he was being held against his
will. The same sources claimed that his face was swollen and bruised and he
had some blood on his clothes.
On 8 February Russian Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Ivan
Golubev, had reportedly said Andrey Babitsky was 'alive, in good health and
being moved around constantly.'
On 9 February Sharip Yusupov, who reportedly identified himself as 'a
spokesman for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov', told Echo Moskvy radio
station that the Chechen commanders are holding Andrey Babitsky and want to
transfer him to another European country. However Chechen authorities
close to President Aslan Maskhadov stated that Sharip Yusupov is not an
official representative and is working for the Russian Federal Security
The Chechen Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iliyas Akhmadov, also made a
statement on 9 February saying that since the last Chechen representative,
Mayerbek Vachagayev, was arrested by the Russian police on 21 October in
Moscow and charged with arms possession, the Chechen authorities have no
official representatives in Moscow. The Chechen authorities continue to
maintain that Andrey Babitsky is not in their custody.
Meanwhile, on 9 February the State Duma voted down a proposal by the
Union of Right Forces and Yabloko faction to summon the Minister of
Internal Affairs, Vladimir Rushailo, and the acting Procurator-General,
Vladimir Ustinov, to discuss the case of Andrey Babitsky during the routine
'In the middle of this tale of intrigue is a man's life. The Russian
authorities and pro-Russian Chechen militia clearly know where Andrey
Babitsky is and should free him immediately,' Amnesty International urged.