Russia: Photographer feared dead in Chechnya

New York, February 29, 2000—CPJ is investigating reports that a Russian photographer kidnapped by Chechen rebels has been murdered. ITAR-TASS news agency photographer Vladimir Yatsina, 51, had been missing since July 19, 1999, following his arrival in the Ingushetian border town of Nazran. According to reports, he was then kidnapped and taken to Chechnya.

At a Federal Security Service briefing in Moscow yesterday, Kazakh businessman Alisher Orazaliyev, who was recently released from captivity in Chechnya and claims to have been held by the same people who kidnapped Yatsina, says he witnessed the photographer’s death on February 20.

According to Orazaliyev, Yatsina, who had health problems and was unable to move quickly, was shot by his Chechen captors five miles outside the Chechen village of Shatoi.

In August 1999, according to ITAR-TASS, the kidnappers contacted Yatsina’s family and demanded US$2 million in ransom. The news agency claims the kidnappers demanded the same amount from them in November.

ITAR-TASS officials say they had been working with Russian government officials and others to secure Yatsina’s release. On February 9, a special Interior Ministry task force was created to investigate the case.

Yatsina had worked for ITAR-TASS since 1979. “Volodya’s fate was a topic of discussion not only in the cabinets of Russian politicians and military commanders. It was also discussed with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan,” the agency’s management said in a written statement released yesterday.

In November, Yatsina was allowed a one-minute phone conversation with his wife. He told her that he was being moved a safer location. Reportedly, Yatsina was last seen alive in early February by a Russian Air Force officer, who claimed to have been held captive with the journalist.

For more information please contact CPJ at (212) 465-1004 or by e-mail at
[email protected]