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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalist Missing In North Caucasus

A veteran war correspondent for Moskovskiye Novosti is missing in the North Caucasus region, the weekly newspaper reported Tuesday.

In a front-page report, the newspaper expressed concern about the whereabouts of Dmitry Balburov, 30, who has not contacted the editorial offices in Moscow for about two weeks. His last telephone call was made in Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya.

"We don't know what has happened to him," a spokesman for the paper's analytical department said. "If he were kidnapped, we would probably already have been contacted by the kidnappers. But we weren't.

"He might have gone to Chechnya - where he was not supposed to go - and now he could be somewhere where he cannot reach us."

Balburov covered the 1994-96 Chechen war and also the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and Tajikistan.

Another correspondent, Said Isayev of Itar-Tass, was kidnapped in Chechnya a week ago and released Sunday. Isayev, who also free-lanced for The Moscow Times, was shot in the knee during a failed escape attempt and needs surgery to remove the bullet, his relative said Tuesday.

Isayev, 38, was kidnapped by a group of Chechens who suspected that he worked for the Federal Security Service, or FSB, according to his cousin Sharip Asuyev, who was in Moscow on Tuesday.

An article in Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper on Aug. 1 describing an earlier kidnapping of Isayev suggested that the reason he was treated relatively well during his 80 days in captivity earlier this year was that his captors believed he was an FSB officer.

"Of course he wasn't an FSB officer," said Asuyev, a former Itar-Tass correspondent who now heads the Kavkaz information agency. "He was an MGU [Moscow State University] student of biology, but gave up his studies. Then he worked as a driver in a collective farm in Chechnya. In the last war, Said was driving me around and made a lot of contacts, which is why he was offered my job as an Itar-Tass reporter when I decided to quit."

An FSB spokesman said Tuesday, "I don't advise you to pay attention to what MK is publishing." MK journalist Yury Kochergin, who wrote the story that tied Isayev to the FSB, said, "Don't take that phrase out of context."

The men who took Isayev captive Oct. 11 said he was suspected of being a spy, according to his cousin. The correspondent was released after his relatives and Chechen officials intervened.