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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Polish Journalists Held by FSB in Ingushetia

Federal Security Service agents detained three Polish journalists for 14 hours in Ingushetia and confiscated 18 videocassettes with footage they had shot in the region, the Polish Embassy said Wednesday.

Tomasz Klimanski, the Polish consul general, said all three journalists had valid visas and accreditation from the Foreign Ministry. When they asked when their videos would be returned, the security agents told them "in due time," Klimanski said.

The Federal Security Service branch in Ingushetia declined to comment.

Mariusz Pilis, a journalist with state-run Polish television, said he and two colleagues were taken Sunday evening from a hotel in Nazran, the main city in Ingushetia. They were preparing to travel to Grozny to interview Moscow-backed Chechen President Alu Alkhanov and other senior Chechen officials.

"Four or five militia members took us to police in Nazran and then split us up and wanted to hear our version of what was happening. We didn't know why we were arrested, and they wouldn't tell us anything," Pilis said by telephone from Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, which borders on Ingushetia. "They took our equipment, film, private letters, photographs, notebooks with telephone numbers -- just everything."

"After those 14 hours of investigation, we were informed that we were arrested because our visas and accreditation cards are no longer valid," he said. "That was the official reason, but not the real reason because our accreditation cards and visas are still valid for several more weeks."

Pilis is the director of a planned documentary on Chechnya, which he says depicts the suffering in the region. He was detained along with a soundman and cameraman.

"We've been in Chechnya a few times before, and we filmed things as we saw them, and of course this was critical because of the things going on there," he said.

The documentary would eventually air on TVP1, the main channel in Poland's state-run television network.

After the three journalists were freed, they were returned to their hotel but prevented from leaving by armed security agents for several hours, Pilis said.

"After a few hours, they came with equipment and our cards but didn't return the films," Pilis said. "They advised us to leave Ingushetia and not come back anymore because if we stayed one more night we would have great problems."

Relations between Russia and Poland have soured recently. Russia was irked at Poland's intervention late last year in the Ukrainian presidential election crisis, which led to the victory of pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Poland became irritated in March when Russia's top military prosecutor said an investigation into the 1940 Katyn forest executions of 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectuals and priests had concluded the massacre did not constitute genocide.

On Josef Stalin's orders, the Soviet secret police executed the prisoners, who were taken during the invasion of Poland.

Moscow also has disregarded Polish calls to condemn the 1939 secret Nazi-Soviet pact, which set the stage for World War II and carved up Poland.