Russia's Chechen Head Sure of US Hostage's Release

Russia's top Chechen administration official said Saturday that he believes US medical aid worker Kenneth Gluck kidnapped in Chechnya will be freed eventually, though search operations have not produced any results so far.

Gluck, a member of the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders, was taken hostage by a group of unknown gunmen near his abode in the village of Starye Atagi, 20 kilometers south of the Chechen capital of Grozny, last Tuesday.

"Bandits did not abduct him to kill him. I'm confident that Gluck is still alive and his abductors will most likely demand ransom or offer a swap," Akhmad Kadyrov, the Moscow-appointed administration head in Chechnya, said in a Saturday interview with Interfax.

He said the kidnappers will demand exchanging Gluck for some Chechen rebel warlords or want a ransom for him in coming days.

"Gluck will be found, this way or another, and I do not doubt it at all. This abduction is only profitable to bandits. Whoever it may be, Barayev or Maskhadov (Chechen rebel leaders), they are all bandits to me," Kadyrov stressed.

All the Chechen law enforcement agencies are engaged in looking for the abducted U.S. citizen. Besides, Kadyrov said, "my supporters in Chechnya are also doing it, and they are using their channels."

Speaking about the situation with the curtailment of the UN aid to Chechnya, Kadyrov admitted that such an incident "will surely worsen the humanitarian situation in the republic, even though the volumes of this aid were not big."

On the same day, Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the U.N. secretary general said that the UN has suspended its humanitarian activity in Chechen territory.

Other international humanitarian organizations have also discontinued their work of assistance to the Chechen population for reasons of security. Eckhard said.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin's human rights envoy to Chechnya, Vladimir Kalamanov, said there was "not much chance for a speedy release," Tass reported.

No ransom has yet been demanded for Gluck, regional head of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning relief charity Doctors Without Borders.

Russian military and interior ministry officials and investigators from the prosecutor's office in the region have been unable to turn up much information on Gluck's whereabouts, although it appeared possible he had been taken into the mountains, Tass said.

The former head of Russia's presidential commission on human rights, Sergei Kovalyov, said the abduction had been "a political operation" aimed at bringing pressure on the Russian authorities ahead of a discussion by the Council of Europe on Russia's human rights record.

People's Daily Online ---