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The five Polish activists held hostage in Chechnya are now free. The five were rescued by Chechen special forces in early February, and are now back with their families in Poland. A big thanks to all of you who have contacted Chechen representatives around the world, and helped spread the news about the hostages.
-On Gogol Boulevard News Service
WARSAW -- Friends of five Polish aid volunteers kidnapped last month in the Russian breakaway region of Chechnya have launched an Internet website to aid calls for their release. "Our friends have already been in captivity 29 days. We will not let them be forgotten," the homepage declared on Thursday above photographs of the abducted men and an appeal for information leading to their release.
Polish newspapers have reported that the five, abducted on Dec. 17 while delivering medicine, food and other supplies from a Polish-Chechen friendship society, are being held for ransom. But there has so far been no ransom demand. Poland's Foreign Ministry, whose special envoy had just returned from a fact-finding mission to Chechnya, said this week the Poles were still in the kidnappers' hands and were in good health but declined to give further information.
The homepage gives biographies of the victims, a plea from the mother of one of them for help from the women of Chechnya and other background. According to Moscow, in 1997 more than 800 people were kidnapped by armed gangs seeking ransom money in Chechnya. The whereabouts of many, including British and French aid workers and Russian missionaries, remain unclear.
Separatist Chechens fought a bloody war in 1994-1996 for full independence from Russia which has only agreed to grant the region autonomy within the Russian Federation.
(Reuters) Copyright EIN Inc.
WARSAW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) -- A group of former officers of Polish secret services is ready to go to Chechnya in search of their five compatriots abducted in this break-away Russian republic at the end of 1997. The initiative comes from the Chechen information centre quartered in Krakow.
The Polish Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the idea. Spokesman of the ministry Pavel Dobrovolsky called the venture "frightful." He stressed that their sally into Chechnya "may entail consequences opposite to those expected," and will have a negative impact on hostages' fate.
-Copyright (c) 1998 ITAR/TASS News Via Comtex.
MOSCOW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) - Over 100 men armed with fire arms, large-caliber machine-guns and grenade-launchers attacked a base of the Chechen president's special investigation brigade on hostages at about 19:00, Moscow time, on Tuesday. The base, located on the way from downtown Grozny to the Severny airport, was encircled by 15 cars, head of the Chechen anti-terrorist center Khunkar Israpilov told Itar-Tass.
The attack was repulsed by the brigade servicemen. The 30- minute fighting resulted in several men wounded and three attackers detained, Israpilov said. The law-enforcement bodies have found out which group attacked the base to free four accomplices detained several days ago on suspicion of kidnapping. "That was the last attempt of kidnappers to impose their will on the Chechen authorities and people," Israpilov said.
The attack followed tougher measures of the Chechen authorities to combat crime, especially abductions. According to information of the Chechen prosecutor's office, there are 27 kidnapping groups in Chechnya. The law-enforcement bodies know the names of all people involved "in the dirty business," including a number of field commanders.
-Copyright(c) 1998 ITAR/TASS News Via Comtex.
Yesterday there was some frightening news on Polish Public TV (main news programme) It was reported by the TV programme corespondent from Czechnya, Mr. Milewicz, actually from Grozny and Samaszki.
There seems to be a scandalous negligence of the case by the Chechen government, security forces (anti-terrorist forces). While the Chechen government (and the Polish government plenipotentiary Kuchciak) claim that everything has been done to release the hostages it appeared from the journalist report that the most basic measures were not taken:
- Five polish men, right before the kidnapping visited the former president of Chechnya, Jandarbijew. They left him and on their way back to Samaszki they were kidnapped. Up till yesterday - until the moment of the interview made with Jandarbijew by the Polish journalist - the former president did not know about the kidnapping, not to mention that he was not questioned by anyone about it. He was very much surprised (it is already 3 weeks since the kidnapping).
- There were claims made by the Chechen government that it was impossible to question the private bodyguards hired by the Polish men because they sweared ... to Koran that they would not tell who the kidnappers are. But it was very easy for the Polish journalist to make them reveal it - he simply asked them in front of the camera. One of the men said: There were four laziks ("Laz") cars following us with about 20 men. They were from the "number fifteen". When the journalist asked what he meant by "number fifteen" - the man answered: "a few of them were from Kolhoz number fifteen near Samaszki".
- The journalist visited also the place where the men stayed in Samaszki. No one from the security forces or police had done it before him. He was the first one to look at the personal belongings of the kidnapped men. There were video tapes, notes etc. which might have provided the clue as to the fate of the Polish men.(Yesterday I talked to one of the priests - organizers of the convoy and he said the men should have document which might have provide information about their fate e.g. if they were kidnapped for political reasons).
The journalist revealed how uncompetent is the Chechen government and the Polish plenipotentiary. He accused them of lacking competence and not taking necessary actions. In a few hours he found more information about the case then the governments in three weeks.
Besides the frightening report the following events were reported in the recent days :
The Chechen chief of Security claimed that there were demands of 3 million dollars from the kidnappers. He explained that no kidnappers contacted him (or anyone) but this information was overheard on the shortwave radio used by the kidnappers.Now it seems as if it was just testing if anyone is ready to pay this sum of money.
No information is given by the Polish government, except for saying that everything is probably fine, the same says the Chechen government. They claim they cannot say a lot about the case for the benefit of the case but is seems that they simply pretend they are doing something.
There are 29 groups in Chechnya which specialize in kidnapping, among their leaders are high positioned military leaders from Chechnya - this was repeated many times on the Polish radio today morning.
All Chechen power-wielding structures were put on alert from this Friday, which is attributed to the start of
active actions by Grozny authorities against mobs engaged in kidnappings, Chechen prosecutor-general Khavash Serbiev
said in an interview with Itar-Tass on Friday.
The deadline of an ultimatum, set by the Chechen leadership and most influential field commanders to dealers of this criminal business, expired last Tuesday, January 6. According to the prosecutor-general, bandits released, over this period, only two hostages -- a Russian man and a Chechen woman who were abducted a month ago for ransom. According to data of the republican prosecutor-general's office, all in all, some 60 people are held captive in the republic, including ten foreigners: five Poles abducted two weeks ago, Camilla Carr and John James, husband and wife who were abducted last summer, two Hungarian nationals and one Turkish businessman.
On the eve of the New Year, a closed meeting of field commanders, chaired by President Aslan Maskhadov, put forth a tough ultimatum to kidnappers: to release all captives by January 6. They ignored this ultimatum on the whole. However, Serbiev stated that participants in all crime families, engaged in kidnapping, were identified over the year 1997 during investigative operations by law enforcement bodies.
According to the Chechen Interior Ministry, there are 29 mobs which specialise only in kidnapping. They include names of several notorious field commanders. A decision was taken by the results of the above closed meeting of field commanders to launch joint vigorous actions by all field commanders against people who will defy this ultimatum. Besides, the republican muftiat called on all the Cechen Moslems, through all city and rural mosques, to help and support tough measures by authorities against criminals.
Copyright(c) 1998 ITAR/TASS News Via Comtex.
WARSAW, JANUARY 8 (From RIA Novosti correspondent Vladimir Blinkov)
Rumours have appeared in Poland that the Chechen kidnappers "let the Daghestan criminals have the five abducted Poles for two million dollars." The Daghestan criminal structures hope to receive for them 3 million dollars.
According to the unofficial information, the Chechens decided to do this fearing punitive actions on the part of the Chechen secret agencies. But the Poles still stay in Chechnya.
Earlier, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Gieremek refuted the rumours that the kidnappers demanded the ransom of 3 million dollars. He said that democratic governments do not enter into negotiations with terrorists or bandits. Neither will Poland do this.
As the RIA Novosti correspondent has learned, the information about the ransom came from the head of the Chechen special unit to combat terrorism, Magomed Magomadov. According to Magomadov, his unit found traces of the kidnappers but they had managed to disappear.
Meanwhile, the term of Maskhadov's ultimatum to kidnappers (January 7) has expired and now, according to it, the authorities have the right to start "punitive measures, including capital punishment."
(RIA and ITAR/TASS are official Russian news services)
A Chechen special force has failed in a bid to free five Poles abducted in the south Russian breakaway region but the kidnapped aid workers are alive and well, a Chechen official told Polish public television on Monday. "The Chechen president's anti-terrorist center last night launched an unfortunately unsuccessful attempt to free the five Poles," the television reported the center's deputy chief Mohamed Mohamedov as telling its Moscow correspondent Iwona Parchimowicz. "We carried out an operation whose objective was to find and spring the Poles, but it did not quite work out the way we hoped," Mohamedov was heard saying in Russian during the news bulletin. It remained unclear how the rescue operation by his anti-terrorist brigade was carried out, but he said the attempt would be repeated. Parchimowicz said Mohamedov had told her the Poles were alive and well but declined to elaborate when asked how he knew, saying that was "an operational secret."
The Poles, aid workers bringing relief goods to war-torn Chechnya, were reported missing on Dec. 17 about 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of Grozny, where their abandoned mini-bus with shot-out tires was found. So far the kidnappers have made no demands, and Mohamedov appealed on television to the missing Poles' families to contact the anti-terrorist center should they be approached for ransom money. "In such a situation the main goal is the safe return of all five Poles, hence talks with everyone -- both in Moscow and Grozny -- are advisable and necessary," Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Pawel Dobrowolski said on television. This has included talks between Poland's ambassador to Moscow with Russian special services, which he hoped the Chechens would not resent. According to Moscow, so far this year more than 800 people have been kidnapped by armed gangs in Chechnya seeking ransom money. The separatist Chechens fought a bloody war in 1994-1996 for full independence from Russia which has agreed only to grant it autonomy within the Russian Federation.
(Reuters) COPYRIGHT BY EIN, Inc. 1997
A few days before Christmas, two members of the Polish Anarchist Federation (FA) were kidnapped in Chechnya, where they were with a convoy of humanitarian aid (food, medicines, clothes). These anarchists are Marek Kurzyniec - a veteran FA activist, and Krzysztof Galinski - one of the founders of the anarchist magazine Mac Pariadka ("Mother of Order"). With the two were 3 other persons, somehow related to the FA.
No one has yet claimed responsibillity for the kidnapping, so nobody (including the Chechen government) are sure who they are, or in what part of the country the hostages are kept. In similar cases, kidnappers have waited for many weeks before making any demands. The director of the Chechen center in Cracow, Ampukaiev, has stated that it is possible that the kidnappers were paid by Russian secret service and that the objective of this action was to prove the Chechens can't be trusted.
Chances are that the Chechens will not hurt them because the two men became well known when they were organizing convoys of humanitarian aid to Chechnya during the war. Three convoys organized with the help of the Anarchist Federation were the only ones which reached the areas of fighting. All other convoys organized by the UN were stopped by the Russians and their cargo was sold on the black market. The Polish Anarchist Federation also organized demonstrations at Russian consulates in Poland, and gathered signatures for a petition to protest the imperialist policies of the Russian government.
-This news has come from a mixture of independent contacts with Chechnyans; the minister of foreign affairs from the Polish embasy in Moscow; the polish rep in Chechnya; of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OESC); and from the official Polish press rep in Grozny.
I took these notes from Malgorzata Tarasiewicz, formally of the dissident, under Communism, Gdansk chapter of Freedom and Peace (WiP), a mainly youth /alternative group for human rights/peace/ecology. She was one of the "legendary" Gdansk anarchists (for those who go back over a decade!). She went on to be head of Solidarnosc's womens division and resigned because of their sexism. She then became head of Poland's Amnesty International, who eventually took on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal (a US political prisoner facing execution). She's now back in Gdansk being one of the people fighting for the hostages. The group I'm in, Neither East Nor West (NENW), had its first contacts with alternative poles via Gdansk WiP. The first letter we got from them was from one of the hostages, Krzysztof Galinski. We helped spread their name and causes around the world which many took up.
Two of the other hostages, Pawel Chojnacki and Pavel Thiel were from WiP. The third is Dominik Piaskowski.
A few of WiP went into the government; most went into alternative/green/anarchist groups like the FA. Some carried on the WiP name. WiP in the state have been lobbied and are all backing the campaign for the Poles, as are officials from all levels of the government. They are signing a petition demanding the chechen president Aslan Maskhadov take a personal interest in the case. NENW will hopefully get an english translation.
This is a daily story in both national and local polish news. Groups have formed in Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice and Opole. They will meet in Warsaw Sunday 4th, and hold a press conference there Monday 6th.
The van of the hostages was found 40 kilometers west of Grozny with its two front tires shot out. They were attacked by 15 people. Two Chechen bodyguards (friends of one of the hostages) were with them who shot two of the attackers. They are now in hiding and not speaking.
One of the theories (for info purposes only - I take no position): the Russian empire still exists after many centuries. They continue to interfere in Chechnya and are cracking down at the borders. They hire Chechen criminals to do the kidnapping. They can then blame the Chechen - that they can't be trusted, are unstable and dangerous - therefore giving a pretext for a russian crackdown. The Russians are demanding that the Chechen president cancel his planned official visit to Poland in January. Poles and Chechen are allready good friends - they have a shared interest in forming a block against their colonizers. If the Chechen state is involved in this crime it will strain relations between them and Poles. Russians don't want them to be even more chummy. Yeltsin is to visit Chechnya in January too. Russians wanna squelch it cuz Yeltsin has become even crazyer blurting out nonsense, so maybe he'll lose it so much that he'd announce Chechen independence when there.
*** for updates sign onto the alter-ee email-list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
*** in North America as far as we know it's NENW and Workers Solidarity Alliance doing the organizing: BobNenwOgb@aol.com, 718-499-7720.
*** contact the official Chechen state rep in the US to voice your concern:
Mohmad Shishani, 412-372-1171, email@example.com
*** TRANSLATORS NEEDED!!!
In NYC there is a former Gdansk wip member working at our local Polish paper. He gets immidiete news updates about the hostages, but in Polish. Can anyone help translate so it can go on the internet in English?
-Bob Mc Glynn, for Neither East Nor West