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Monday, 28 February, 2000, 21:48 GMT
Babitsky flown to Moscow
ludmila
Andrei Babitsky's wife arrives in Dagestan to see him
Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky, who was detained by Russia while he was covering the war in Chechnya, has been released from prison and is being flown to Moscow.

The Russian journalist was arrested in Dagestan on Friday, on charges of having a forged passport. His release came only hours after acting President Vladimir Putin said the reporter should be freed

babitsky
The journalist has been complaining of poor health
International pressure had also been building up for his release.

Mr Babitsky himself had said he was going on hunger strike in protest at his latest detention.

He was first arrested in connection with what was seen as his anti-Russian coverage of the Chechen war.

He was then swopped for Russian soldiers being held by Chechen rebels.

Missing for weeks

There were increasing fears for his safety when he subsequently disappeared in Chechnya for several weeks.

Mr Babitsky's lawyer Alexander Zozulya said earlier that the journalist was angry at this latest arrest, maintaining that the fake passport had been planted on him. A spokesman for Radio Liberty said he had been put on a plane to Moscow, but it was not known whether he would be released when he arrived.

His wife or his lawyer were not informed of his departure.

Babitsky reunion

Earlier, Lyudmila Babitsky had an emotional meeting with her husband after travelling to Dagestan.

She said he desperately wanted to go home.


He doesn't know what is going on

Lyudmila Babitsky
"I couldn't even look at him," said Lyudmila Babitsky.

"He really wants to go home. He doesn't know what is going on."

Mr Babitsky was one of the few Russian journalists to file critical reports of the Russian offensive in Chechnya.

His disappearance and handover to the Chechen side, in exchange for three Russian servicemen, was interpreted as a crude attempt by the Kremlin to silence a critic.

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