Moscow, Jan. 18 (RFE/RL) - There are varying reports, none of which can be confirmed, as to the fate of hostages held by Chechen gunmen in the Dagestani village of Pervomayskaya.
The Itar-Tass news agency today quotes Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin as saying that as of last night, no hostages remained in the village. It is not clear whether he meant they had been executed or that they had been moved by their captors.
Yesterday, a spokesman for the Federal Security Services said Russian forces launched a massive assault on the village because it was believed most or all of the hostages had been executed. But the Russian Interior Ministry issued a conflicting report saying over 100 hostages were still being held in a mosque in Pervomayskaya.
Meanwhile, a Chechen separatist spokesman told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in a telephone interview today that a group of Salman Raduyev's gunmen had taken over 100 hostages to an unknown destination last night. Movladi Udugov said the gunmen and their captives were able to escape after Chechen fighters breached Russian forces ringing Pervomayskaya. Udugov said 36 Interior Ministry ("Oman") troops were among the hostages removed.
Udugov said only wounded Chechens, and several Chechen fighters left to guard them, remain in Pervomayskaya. The Chechen spokesman says the Chechens are offering to exchange the hostages for a Russian guarantee to allow them to remove their wounded comrades from Pervomayskaya.