Moscow, 18 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The 21 Russian policemen being held hostage by Chechen field commander Salman Raduyev were released today after four days in captivity.
Itar-tass quotes the interior ministry of neighboring Dagestan as saying the policemen had been handed over in the settlement of Gerze-Kutan. The Russian military command confirmed the release of the hostages and said helicopters with the freed policemen had left Gerze-Kutan and were headed either for the Russian military base near Grozny or a base in neighboring Ingushetia.
It said the 21 policemen were being accompanied by Boris Berezovsky, the deputy Security Council secretary, who took part in arranging the release of the hostages earlier today.
Raduyev had seized the policemen after they refused to allow his men to enter Dagestan this weekend.
He said yesterday that he wanted Russia to apologize for halting their passage to Dagestan. He also warned of taking extreme measures if Russian officials decided to employ force to secure the hostages' release.
Russian officials had been in the region trying to negotiate a release. The Chechen separatist leadership had put pressure on Raduyev to release the hostages, fearing the incident could upset the fragile peace process.