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Russia: Hostage Standoff In Sochi

Moscow, 21 September 2000 (RFE/RL) - Masked gunmen continue to hold several people hostage at a hotel construction site in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi. Details of the incident remain sketchy since the standoff began this morning. Russian President Vladimir Putin has put the Federal Security Service in charge of negotiating with the hostagetakers and sent envoy Viktor Kazantsev to the scene. Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Sergei Shavelyov said: "The demands were made immediately: $30 million and the release of all 'Chechen brothers' who are presently in Russian jails." Despite the demands, Russian officials, including Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, say they do not believe there is a Chechen connection in the case. They say two of the captors have been identified and are known to be mentally unbalanced.