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Russia: Journalists Freed From Captivity In Chechnya

Moscow, 6 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Four Russian journalists, freed after three months in captivity in Chechnya, arrived in Moscow today. The four, an Itar-tass correspondent and three Radio Russia reporters, were released earlier today to Dagestan Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboyev and brought to Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala.

Speaking to reporters after arrival in Moscow, both the journalists and the officials meeting them at the airport said no ransom had been paid. Chechen officials earlier declined to give details of the release operation but said three other reporters from the NTV network who are still in captivity would also be freed soon.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin expressed his gratitude to Chechen officials for their efforts in freeing the journalists.

Yeltsin, on a trip to St. Petersburg, said that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and other Chechen officials had not abandoned the Russian journalists and worked tirelessly to secure their release. Yeltsin also called for joint action between Russia and Chechnya to fight terrorism.

The freeing of the hostages has become an key issue for Maskhadov, who is determined to prove he controls the Caucasus republic.

Russia's Security Council Secretary, Ivan Rybkin, told Interfax today that the freeing of the hostages would bolster Maskhadov's influence among Chechens.