Student Spends Holiday in Hole

RossiaA view of the service bay in the garage in which the captive was held.
University students traditionally celebrate Jan. 25, or St. Tatyana's Day, by getting drunk while police turn a blind eye to their excesses on the last day of the winter session.

But one student from a prestigious Moscow institute spent the holiday chained up in a hole in the ground before police freed her from kidnappers.

Police freed the 20-year-old woman, a student at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs, or MGIMO, from captivity Saturday after she was kidnapped two days earlier outside the institute in southwest Moscow, city police spokesman Igor Tsirulnikov said Tuesday.

Three suspects have been arrested and charged with kidnapping and extortion, and are suspected of kidnapping another female MGIMO student in October, Tsirulnikov said.

The suspects -- Rodion Sinelshchikov, Alexander Chernykh and Dmitry Komrakov -- staked out students at MGIMO because it is one of the choice universities for children of the country's political and business elite, so their parents are able to pay ransoms, Tsirulnikov said.

The kidnapping victim was hailing a gypsy cab to the nearby Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station Thursday when Chernykh pulled over in his Mitsubishi Lancer in front of the MGIMO main building on Ulitsa Lobachevskogo, Tsirulnikov said.

Glasses, shoes, ammunition and a gun found in the hole with the victim.
After agreeing on a price, Chernykh drove the student several hundred meters before stopping and picking up Sinelshchikov and Komrakov, who proceeded to handcuff the student and tape up sunglasses over her eyes, Tsirulnikov said. They then drove her to a garage complex on Ulitsa Krasnaya Sosna in northeast Moscow, he said.

The suspects placed the girl in a hole 2 meters deep, 3 meters wide and 4 meters long that they dug in a service bay sunk into the floor of the garage, where they kept her chained up while they called her father -- a "state official" -- and demanded $60,000 in ransom money, Tsirulnikov said.

"The hole was clearly dug in order to hold someone captive," he said.

The father alerted police, who were able to identify Chernykh using information from other MGIMO students who remembered the make and model of the car that picked the young woman up, as well as part of the license plate number, Tsirulnikov said.

Police traced the car to a garage in northeastern Moscow to Chernykh and raided it Saturday. All three suspects were arrested inside the garage, where police found the kidnapped student chained up in the hole along with a sawed-off shotgun, a Makarov pistol, two black ski masks, a blindfold and gag, parts of a police uniform and ammunition, Tsirulnikov said.

The young woman had not been harmed physically, he said.

The suspects, who could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of kidnapping, are believed to have pulled off a similar crime against a female MGIMO student in October, Tsirulnikov said. In that case, the parents went to police only after paying $50,000 in ransom money to free their daughter, he said.

Police were already looking for suspects in that case when last week's incident occurred, Tsirulnikov said.