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Russia: Chechen Leader Denies Involvement In Kidnappings

Grozny, 20 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov today denied claims that he was involved in the kidnappings of Russian journalists, saying such allegations were aimed at undermining the peace process between Moscow and Grozny.

Igor Malashenko, head of the Russian NTV commercial channel, made the charges yesterday and said that a seven-figure dollar ransom had been paid for the release of an NTV crew on Monday.

Itar-tass cites Arsanov as telling a news conference in Grozny that the release of the journalists was carried out by Chechen security forces and had been ordered by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Arsanov also said that the kidnappers had put up fierce resistance, killing one Chechen policeman and wounding six others. He said there were an unspecified number of casualties among the kidnappers too and that three of them had been arrested.

Arsanov also said he had ordered prosecutors to institute criminal proceedings against Malashenko for slander and for kindling inter-ethnic strife.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin earlier today in Moscow criticised Malashenko for suggesting the Chechen leadership was involved in the abduction of the journalists.