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Journalists freed after kidnap drama in Ingushetia

The President of Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia says he will take personal control of the investigation into an attack on Russian journalists. Three REN TV employees and a human rights activist were kidnapped in the city of Nazran on Friday nigh

The captives say a group of masked gunmen seized them in one of the city's hotels before severely  beating them. They say they were later released in a field.

The journalists' mobile phones, notebooks and cameras were taken by the gunmen.

There's no information on the identity of the alleged kidnappers.

Who had the journalists annoyed?

The journalists had been covering the story of a fatal shooting of a young boy by security forces in the village of Chemulga more than two weeks ago.

The police opened fire on a house where they believed militants were hiding. At the time, the police reported that they'd heard gunfire from the house. However, after storming the building no suspects were found. Prosecutors are still investigating the incident, which has led to protests from local residents.

A journalist's account

REN-TV managed to contact one of the abducted men, its correspondent Artyom Vysotsky.

Artyom Vysotsky (photo from www.ren-tv.com)
Artyom Vysotsky (photo from www.ren-tv.com)
“The captors stripped me of my belongings including my ID and credit cards. I cannot recall the exact number of abductors, but I think there were six,” he said.

"I was wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt. They put a black plastic bag over my head. The men were armed with automatic weapons. They drove us in circles all around the city for about 50 minutes.

“Then we were forced out of the car and they threatened to shoot us on the spot. After that I was hit in the back of my head.  I lost consciousness. When I came to, I saw my colleagues, but our captors were still threatening us, but soon after they left,” Artyom Vysotsky said.

Investigation launched

Both federal and local Ingushetian police are investigating the case. 
Valery Gribakin from the Russian Interior Ministry public relations department says both sides believe the incident was “a provocation against local police and REN TV journalists.”

“Three REN TV channel journalists arrived in the republic earlier on Friday to shoot the material they needed for their programme. They said five to eight masked gunmen in camouflage raided their hotel room, beat them up and then later released them at night,” he said.  

REN TV's Chief Producer Igor Barchukov said he was surprised the Ingush Interior Ministry denied the attack.

“Our correspondent Artyom Vysotsky suffered the most serious injuries, It seems that his kidneys suffered heavy trauma. The assistant cameraman, Stanislav Goryachev, was also severely beaten in the face,” he said.

Barchukov said hospital staff are treating the men for their injuries. He also said he had information that other news teams are being targeted.

“Artyom has just told me that the crew of the Vesti [news] state TV channel were also detained by local police,” Barchukov said.