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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputy Says Babitsky Tale Is Odd

Former Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Kovalyov called the case of missing Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky "absolutely incomprehensible," Interfax reported Tuesday.

"The situation surrounding Babitsky strikes me as more than strange ... and it raises a multitude of questions," said Kovalyov, who is the deputy chair of the Security Committee in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament.

Kovalyov told journalists Monday that the videotaped exchange of Babitsky, who was detained by federal forces in mid-January and exchanged for several Russian servicemen allegedly held captive by Chechen fighters, "does not fit into the framework of existing legislation."

The deputy said that, based on his experience as an intelligence officer, he has doubts about official claims that the tape was made by the special services. Usually, in these kinds of cases, he said, video recordings specify the exact time and location of the activity being taped.

Kovalyov, a member of the anti-Kremlin Fatherland-All Russia, said that he had voted to support the idea of submitting an official parliamentary inquiry into Babitsky's whereabouts to the Prosecutor General's Office. Although this initiative was voted down by deputies, Kovalyov's Security Committee submitted its own request for information on the reporter's fate, to which the prosecutor's office has not yet responded.

Meanwhile, two government officials closely linked to the Kremlin issued far more neutral statements about Babitsky on Tuesday, simply repeating the official information that has been circulating.

The recently appointed special presidential representative for human rights in Chechnya, former Migration Service head Vladimir Kalamanov, said that federal authorities are "working on returning Babitsky to Moscow."

According to Interfax, Press Minister Mikhail Lesin said on Ekho Moskvy radio that Babitsky is definitely alive and, although the government does not know where he is being held, there have been intelligence reports that "the Chechens themselves are using him as a shield, since it is clear that Russian troops will not aggressively attack the bandits [for fear of] killing Babitsky.