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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Broadcast Journalist Babitsky Disappears

Andrei Babitsky, one of a handful of journalists who have risked their lives to report from Grozny, has been missing for 12 days, his colleagues and family said Wednesday.

They tend to believe he has been detained by the Federal Security Service because his critical reports for Radio Liberty have angered the authorities.

Vladimir Baburin, editor of Radio Liberty's Moscow bureau, said Babitsky was last in touch Jan. 14 when he called from Grozny by satellite phone to say he planned to walk out of the Chechen capital and would not call for several days.

On Tuesday, Radio Liberty received unconfirmed reports that Babitsky had been detained by federal troops, Baburin said. The radio station sent out official inquiries Wednesday, which have so far remained unanswered.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, acting President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Chechnya, said at a news conference Wednesday that Babitsky "left Grozny and then disappeared." He said the federal authorities were unaware of his whereabouts. He also stressed that Babitsky had no accreditation to work in Chechnya. "As far as we are concerned, his security was not guaranteed," Itar-Tass quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying.

An FSB spokesman in Moscow said he had no information about Babitsky's whereabouts or whether he was detained by the FSB in the combat zone. But he said FSB headquarters often has difficulty receiving information from Chechnya.

The Russian Union of Journalists issued an appeal Wednesday asking all military and civilian authorities to assist in the search of Babitsky, 35.

Baburin said it was unlikely he had been kidnapped by Chechens for ransom. "Right now, it would not be in their interest," he said. But he also said many Chechen armed groups are outside the chief commanders' control.

Babitsky's wife, Lyudmila, said she was deeply distressed by lack of news from her husband. She, too, said she believed he was in the hands of Russian authorities.