YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Human rights activist Antoin Arakelian who heads the St. Petersburg–Russia based Congress of National Union of Russia’spoke to reporters recently–recounting his escape from Chechen hostage handlers–with the help of a 14-year-old Chechen hostage.
Initial reports that Arakelian was freed as a result of an operation to apprehend a major criminal group involved in kidnapping was inaccurate.
Arakelian also said that kidnapers demanded a ransom of $2 million to release him. The Chechen law enforcement agencies announced an award of $100,000 for information about Arakelian’s whereabouts.
Several other nationals of the Ukraine–Turkey–Belarus–France and the Chechen republic are also suspected to be held hostage by the same individuals.
Arakelian also spoke about his search for missing journalists from St. Petersburg–including Maxim Shabalin–political editor of the Nevskoye Vremya newspaper–photojournalist Felix Titov–both of whom were reported missing in March of 1995–as well as a free lance photojournalist Sergey Ivanov who disappeared in June of 1995.
According to Arakelian–he obtained information indicating that Shabalin and Titov were shot dead by the Chechen hostage handlers–while Sergey Ivanov was killed in a bombing launched by the Russian air force.
Arakelian refused to their burial place–noting that this matter would yet to be discussed with different Chechen officials.