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Russia2 October 2003

Reporters Without Borders lobbies EU and OSCE about kidnapped journalist in Ingushetia

Reporters Without Borders called today on the presidents of the European Union (EU) Council and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to urge the Russian authorities to step up their investigation into the disappearance of the Agence France-Presse correspondent in the Russian republic of Ingushetia, Ali Astamirov, who was kidnapped by armed men on 4 July.

The appeal was made on the eve of the 4 October presidential elections in neighbouring Chechnya, which Astamirov also reported on, in letters to EU Council president Silvio Berlusconi and OSCE president Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who is also Dutch foreign minister.

There has been no news of Astamirov since he was seized in the Ingushetian capital, Nazran, by three armed men and driven off towards Chechnya. No ransom demand has been received by his family or by Agence France-Presse and the kidnappers have not tried to contact them. Neither those in charge of the case in Moscow nor the prosecutor’s office in Nazran have made any significant progress in their investigations. His family, who believed he was still alive three weeks after his disappearance, are now no longer sure.

In the months before he was seized, Astamirov had received anonymous threats and had moved house for safety reasons. These threats, as well as the lack of any ransom demand, suggest he was kidnapped because of his work as a journalist.

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