Russians say no ransom was paid

THE BRITISH aid workers freed by Chechen rebels on Sunday were released under a complex deal that may have included the threat of a rescue operation by security forces.

Sources in Moscow insisted yesterday that no ransom - official or otherwise - was paid to hostage-takers to ensure the release of Jon James, 38, and Camilla Carr, 40, who had been held for 14 months.

There was speculation that security forces in Chechnya had identified the hostage- takers and were preparing a rescue mission. To avoid bloodshed an arrangement was struck - with the Russian media tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, acting as the deal-maker - to release the Britons.

Mr James and Ms Carr yesterday spent their first full day of freedom together. They remained at a special unit at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, where they had been flown in a private jet chartered by Mr Berezovsky.

More than 36 hours after they were released from 443 days in captivity, details of the deal remain sketchy. They were driven to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia for a rendezvous with Mr Berezovsky. Despite speculation, Mr Berezovsky did not pay a ransom to secure the release.

The fact that Mr James and Ms Carr were sympathetic to the Chechens' plight may have been a factor in their release.

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