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Russia: Babitsky In Custody In Daghestan

Makhachkala, Daghestan; 28 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky remains in custody in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, today after being formally charged yesterday with possession of false documents. Babitsky's lawyer, Aleksandr Zozulia, was present yesterday when Babitsky was questioned in the prosecutor general's office there. He said Babitsky refused to sign the questioning protocol.

Babitsky was originally detained by Russian forces in Chechnya in mid-January. Later, Russian officials said he had been handed over to Chechen rebels in exchange for Russian soldiers.

But Babitsky's whereabouts remained a mystery until Friday when he reappeared in Makhachkala and phoned his wife.

Zozulia told Russian NTV that, according to Babitsky, the people who were holding him in Chechnya were not linked to the Chechen rebels.

Babitsky's wife Lyudmila and Mario Corti, director of RFE/RL's Russian broadcasting service, arrived together with Zozulia yesterday in Makhachkala but were not allowed to see Babitsky.