Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reports: Maskhadov Relatives Abducted

Chechen rebels claim several elderly relatives of separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov have been abducted in recent days by federal forces or pro-Moscow Chechen forces in the republic, media reports said.

The accusation came in a letter addressed to the European Parliament, according to Ekho Moskvy radio and the pro-rebel web site, on Sunday. Ekho Moskvy said the letter was from Chechen separatists; the web site described its authors as Chechen politicians.

According to the letter, two brothers and a sister of Maskhadov were among several relatives abducted last week in Grozny and elsewhere in Chechnya, the reports said. The letter said their ages ranged from 69 to 76.

A spokesman for the Chechen Interior Ministry, Ruslan Atsayev, said the republic's police force had not detained any relatives of Maskhadov and was unaware of any having been abducted. Interfax quoted an unnamed source in the Chechen prosecutor's office as saying that neither Chechen law enforcement agencies nor federal troops had detained Maskhadov's brothers or sister.

A total of 386 people were abducted in Chechnya in 2004, the human rights group Memorial said last week, adding that 24 were found killed and 175 remained missing.

The letter to the European Parliament claimed that abductions of women, the elderly and children have increased in recent weeks, the reports said. They said its authors tied the increase to a statement by Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, who said in late October that detaining terrorists' relatives could be an effective tool against them.

In September, a brother-in-law of Maskhadov, Shirvani Semiyev, said federal forces briefly detained him and up to 50 other relatives of Maskhadov and rebel warlord Shamil Basayev on Sept. 3, the final day of the rebel raid in Beslan.