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Russia: Videotape Purportedly Shows Reporter Alive After Swap

Moscow, 9 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - A videotape delivered to the RFE/RL bureau in Moscow shows its correspondent, Andrei Babitsky, in captivity and was purportedly made after the Russians said he was handed over to rebels in Chechnya. The tape was obtained by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last night and aired on Russian NTV television today. Babitsky is shown sitting in front of a white wall, a piece of cloth in his hand. He is speaking slowly but distinctly and laments that he cannot go home right now. He adds, "time is the problem." Babitsky says on the tape that the day it was taken was Sunday, February 6. It is impossible to verify independently that the video was made on that date.

Russian forces detained Babitsky as he was leaving Grozny last month, allegedly because he lacked proper journalistic accreditation. The Russian government says its military exchanged Babitsky with the Chechen side for Russian prisoners of war last week.

Chechen authorities insist their forces never received Babitsky in a handover.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has demanded that Russia give proof by today that Babitsky is alive. The OSCE's special representative on freedom of the media, Freimut Duve, said failure by the Russians to provide proof of Babitsky's whereabouts will prompt the OSCE to take further unspecified action.

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said yesterday he knows Babitsky is well and in the hands of the Chechens. He said his information was based on intercepted rebel communications.