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Russia / Chechnya7 September 2006

Concern over plight of missing journalist

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today over the fate of journalist Elina Ersenoyeva, kidnapped three weeks ago in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and urged the authorities to make every effort to find her.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it feared she had been mistreated since confirmation of her marriage to former rebel chieftain Shamil Bassayev, who was killed in July. Nothing has been heard of her since she was seized in the street by gunmen on 17 August.

Chechnya’s assistant prosecutor, Nikolai Kalugin, says he was not officially told of the kidnapping until 25 August, when he asked officials in Grozny to make “necessary enquiries.”

It is thought Ersenoyeva may have been seized because of her links with the pro-independence rebels. She worked as a freelance for the opposition paper Chechenskoye Obshchestvo and the day before she disappeared had asked for help to leave the country because she had been threatened.

29 august 2006

Conflicting reports about kidnapped journalist’s links to recently killed warlord

The head of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, Svetlana Gannushkina, voiced caution yesterday about a “rumour” that kidnapped Chechen journalist Elina Ersenoyeva had been secretly married to Shamil Basayev, the Chechen separatist warlord who was killed in an explosion last month.

“An atmosphere of sensationalist rumours has been created around the kidnapping of Elina Ersenoyeva,” Gannushkina wrote in a letter to Russian prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika. “Spread by irresponsible people, these rumours about links between Elina and Shamil Basayev could lead her kidnappers to do something dangerous.”

Taissa Issayeva, the head of a Chechen organisation, last week told a Russian radio station that Ersenoyeva “was Basayev’s last wife” and that he “used her to post information on the Chechen separatist site Kavkacenter.”

24 august 2006

Gunmen kidnap newspaper reporter in downtown Grozny

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the kidnapping of reporter Elina Ersenova of the daily Chechenskoye Obshchestvo, who was abducted by gunmen on Kadyrov Avenue in the centre of Grozny on 17 August.

“We call on the Chechen and Russian authorities to do everything possible to get Ersenova freed as soon as possible,” the press freedom organisation said. “The mobilisation must be immediate and massive.”

Witnesses said Ersenova and her aunt were kidnapped by gunmen aboard two cars who put bags over their heads and bundled them into their cars. They released her aunt a few hours later.

Chechenskoye Obshchestvo editor Timur Aliev said Ersenova used her mobile phone to call her mother on the evening of the same day, saying her kidnappers had promised to release her. Since then, the family has received no further word from her and her mobile phone has been turned off.

Two days before her abduction, Ersenova wrote to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to say she, her mother and her two brothers were being harassed by members of the security forces working for Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.

Ersenova’s reporting focused on the social problems encountered by the Chechen population. Her most recent story was about conditions in Grozny prison.

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