Russian ransom revealed

NTV pays $2 mil for kidnapped journalists

MOSCOW — NTV, a leading Russian indie channel, went public Wednesday with details of a $2 million ransom that it paid for its three correspondents taken hostage in Chechnya last year.

Award-winning reporter Yelena Masyuk, who spent 101 days in captivity with her crew, Dmitry Olchev and Ilya Mordyukhov, before being released in August 1997, made the announcement at a meeting of the Intl. Press Institute in Moscow. Previously, NTV officials would only say the amount paid was seven figures.

Accused officials

While making the announcement, Masyuk also accused senior Chechen officials, including the state’s vice president, of being involved in the kidnapping trade, which allegedly raked in $16 million last year.

She also accused Russian officials in neighboring republics of charging commissions for intervening to arrange release of kidnap victims.

Journalists from two other Russian channels were kidnapped in a similar way for ransom last year.

Masyuk, more than any other Russian journalist — and NTV more than any other channel — covered the Chechen war from a viewpoint that appeared pro Chechen and against the position of the Russian government, which at one point threatened her with prosecution for broadcasting an interview with rebel leaders.