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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army Officer's Life Hangs in Balance

Fears were mounting Sunday over the fate of a Russian army officer being held hostage by Chechen rebels.

Sergei Boryayev, the deputy military commandant of Chechnya's Vedeno district, was reported captured by the rebel Abdul-Valid, a lieutenant of the warlord Khattab, in a rebel attack on a military convoy in the district on Sept. 29.

Rebels had subsequently threatened to execute Boryayev, 32, if federal authorities failed to hand over 25 Chechen civilians by midnight Sunday. As of Sunday evening, however, no exchange had been reported.

Khattab issued the ultimatum to federal troops on Oct. 15 through the rebels' web site, In the ultimatum, he demanded the release of the civilians, including nine women who had been seized by the Russian military during mopping-up operations in Chechen settlements.

If his demands were not met, the rebels would execute Boryayev, Khattab reiterated Saturday in his latest interview to He added that "the infidels will find his [severed] head on the grave of Elza Kungayeva," a young Chechen woman killed by Colonel Yury Budanov -- currently on trial in a military court in Rostov-on-Don.

Khattab has carried through with a similar threat before. In March 2000, Khattab's rebels attacked a column of Perm OMON troops in the Vedeno district, killing 32 servicemen and taking 11 prisoner. They approached the Russian authorities with an offer to exchange the captured men for Budanov, but the offer was declined. On May 1, the bodies of the 11 servicemen were found near the village of Dargo in the Vedeno district.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov took personal charge of the Boryayev case, the news agency reported Friday, citing the ministry's press service. Special units attached to the ministry were deployed in search operations in Chechnya, parallel to negotiations to free Boryayev, the press service reported.

However, nongovernmental organizations involved in attempts to secure Boryayev's release cast doubts on the ministry's claims.

"Russian officials did nothing to help the officer, nor did the vast majority of the Russian media," said Vladimir Oivin of the Moscow-based Glasnost Foundation human rights group.

According to Oivin, Glasnost contacted the presidential commission on war prisoners and internees about the case, but commission officials said they lacked the funds to send a representative to Chechnya to conduct negotiations.

Glasnost then approached influential State Duma Deputies Alexei Arbatov and Sergei Yushenkov, asking them to provide assistance to a Chechen negotiator found by Novaya Gazeta reporter Vyacheslav Izmailov, who often participates in negotiations to release servicemen held in Chechnya.

"This negotiator could have at least postponed the execution, but as far as I know, the deputies did nothing to save the officer," said Glasnost's Valentina Alexeyeva, who talked to the deputies' offices.

No one in either the presidential commission or the offices of Arbatov and Yushenkov was available for comment Sunday.

If the military didn't come up with the 25 Chechens on Sunday, then rebels would offer to swap Boryayev's body for five live Chechens arrested during mopping-up operations, Khattab told in the interview Saturday.

Boryayev, who was posted to Chechnya earlier this year, has a pregnant wife, Inga, and a 9-year-old daughter in Nizhny Novgorod.