An online database on people kidnapped in and around Chechnya is to become available soon, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, President Vladimir Putin's ombudsman for human rights and civil liberties in the turbulent republic, said in a statement Monday.
Sultygov said his staff are currently busy inputting names of abductees and locations and circumstances of their abductions. The ombudsman added the database will be a convenient tool open to the public and to news organizations in particular.
He went on to say, however, that there has not been any marked improvement on the kidnappings record lately. Chechen prosecutors reported that 284 people have been kidnapped in the past seven months; none of these people had a Chechen ethnic identity. The government of Chechnya, Sultygov added, reports that 110 were kidnapped, mostly from other parts of Russia.
Kidnapping for ransom has been notoriously widespread in Chechnya. It was particularly visible under the separatist Maskhadov regime in the late 1990s, when kidnappers did a brisk trade in captives, whose situation amounted to slavery. So rampant was the slave trade at the time that a marketplace was officially authorized in Urus-Martan, Chechnya, to buy, sell, or trade abductees. Individuals of Slavonic race appeared to be targets of choice for kidnappers.
Since the fall of the Maskhadov regime, trade in human beings has been prosecuted in Chechnya. However, the authorities' achievements in cleaning up the republic in that respect have been mixed.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969