MOSCOW, Aug. 19 -- Chechen kidnappers holding Vladimir Yatsina, a veteran photographer working for Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, for the past month have demanded a ransom of $2 million. The state-owned agency says the rebels contacted the photographer's family to make the demand.
Yatsina was kidnapped about a month ago while on a trip to the city of Nazran, close to the border with Chechnya. Chechnya is still formally part of Russia, but has been effectively self-ruled by competing warlords since the withdrawal of Russian forces from the territory in 1996. Hostage-taking is widespread and is seen as one of the most lucrative businesses in the impoverished region. Ransoms amounting to several thousand dollars are regularly paid by relatives of those kidnapped to free their loved ones, but demands for million-dollar ransoms are extremely rare. Two years ago, a leading war correspondent for Russia's private NTV network, Yelena Masyuk, and her crew were kidnapped by Chechen rebels and a similar ransom was demanded. Masyuk and her crew were later released, although it has never been confirmed that the ransom was actually paid. Many hostage releases are made in exchange for the release of Chechens held in Russian jails. ---
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