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Russia: Babitsky Returns Home

Moscow/Prague, 29 February 2000 (RFE/RL) - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky, who was detained by Russian forces and was missing in Chechnya for six weeks, has returned home to his apartment in Moscow. Babitsky told RFE/RL early today that he had been flown to Moscow from Daghestan aboard a Russian military aircraft. He said he had been released from custody on his own recognizance, on the condition that he remain in Moscow while Russian authorities continue an investigation of him. The 35-year-old reporter has been charged with possessing false documents.

Babitsky joined other observers in accusing Russian forces of torturing Chechen inmates at the Chernokozovo detention camp north of Grozny. He gave no details, but said he was looking forward to talking in greater detail about his experiences in Chechnya soon.

Russia has strongly denied allegations its forces have carried out atrocities in Chechnya.

Moscow's handling of Babitsky's case has drawn protests from the international community. Russian authorities at one point said the journalist had been traded to Chechen separatist fighters in exchange for Russian prisoners of war. He re-emerged in Daghestan on Friday. Russian acting President Vladimir Putin yesterday said he saw no reason for Babitsky to remain in custody.

RFE/RL President Thomas Dine welcomed Babitsky's release as an important step forward, but said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will continue to seek to have all charges against him dropped.