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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Babitsky Claims Photo Reveals His FSB Captor




Allegations that Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky was held in Chechnya by Russia's own law enforcement agents gained new ground Friday.


The Segodnya daily ran a front-page story along with a photo of a man in camouflage who itsaid was an officer of the Federal Security Service, or FSB. It said the man had had custody of Babitsky in Dagestan at a time when the authorities said he was in the hands of Chechen rebels.


The newspaper quoted some Dagestani reporters as saying that the man was an officer in the FSB's Dagestan branch and his name was Kamil. Reached by telephone Friday, one of these reporters said the FSB "knows" the man in the photograph. Local FSB spokesman Murad Gadzhimuradov said he had not seen the photo and could not comment.


Segodnya had run another photo of this man June 14 showing him walking next to Chechen mufti Akhmed Kadyrov. Babitsky saw the photo and identified the man as the one who had tried to arrange his transfer to Azerbaijan on Feb. 23.


Border guards had refused to let the reporter out because his passport was not properly filled out, Babitsky said. The man then handed over Babitsky to a local guide and paid him to smuggle the journalist to Azerbaijan. However, Babitsky managed to convince the guide to let him go on Feb. 24, the journalist said in a recent interview.


Babitsky, who had angered the military with his coverage of the Chechen campaign, was detained Jan. 23 in Grozny for failing to have obtained accreditation to travel to Chechnya.


The Interior Ministry said Babitsky was handed over to Chechen rebels Feb. 3 in exchange for several Russian soldiers who had been taken captive.


Babitsky, however, said he remained in the custody of a group of pro-Moscow Chechens until he fled to the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, on Feb. 24.


In a telephone interview Friday, Babitsky said Segodnya's Friday report "proves again" that he was kidnapped and kept in custody on the orders of law enforcement chiefs to stop him from covering the Chechen conflict. He said he will ask investigator Igor Danilkin of the Interior Ministry's investigative committee, who is probing his case, to look into the report.


Babitsky was arrested by a police patrol in Makhachkala on Feb. 25 while carrying a passport that he maintains his captors had filled out in another person's name before giving to him. He was released Feb. 29 and returned to Moscow only to be charged with using an ID filled out in another person's name.