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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Abductions Figure Falls

The number of abductions in Chechnya has dropped significantly, a top security official in the North Caucasus said, Interfax reported Tuesday.

Half as many abductions occurred last year as in 2003, and the number during the first half of this year was less than half that of the same period in 2004, said Colonel General Arkady Yedelev, chief of counterterrorist operations headquarters in the North Caucasus, Interfax reported.

Yedelev credited a program, introduced last year, which requires that regional security headquarters approve all raids to detain suspected rebels and that Chechen prosecutors be notified in advance of such operations.

Many abductions and disappearances of civilians have been reported following such operations by federal forces and Chechen security forces. According to Yedelev, 513 abductions were officially reported in Chechnya in 2003, 164 in 2004 and 79 in the first half of 2005.

The number of abductions reported in Chechnya had decreased but the "more complicated situation" there had made it harder to track disappearances, said Dmitry Grushkin of the Memorial human rights group in Moscow.

"It's very hard to say who they are: rebels or officials, Russian soldiers or not," Grushkin said.

He said the situation was also harder to track because Chechens had increasingly tried to find their missing relatives through their own efforts, without reporting disappearances to officials or rights groups. Some who have been seized by security officials and then freed after beatings or interrogations also do not want to report the incidents.

"Why should they announce it?" Grushkin said, suggesting that could bring more trouble.

Memorial's monitoring showed 152 people abducted in Chechnya in the first six months of this year: 58 of them were freed or bought for ransom, six were found dead, two were being searched for in places of detention, and 86 disappeared. Grushkin said the monitoring covered only about 25 percent to 30 percent of Chechnya, so the real number would be greater.