Foreign Office accused of contributing to hostage deaths

Click to follow
Indy Politics

A Tory frontbencher called yesterday for an investigation into the Foreign Office's mishandling of a hostage crisis in Chechnya two years ago, which she claimed had led to the deaths of the captives.

A Tory frontbencher called yesterday for an investigation into the Foreign Office's mishandling of a hostage crisis in Chechnya two years ago, which she claimed had led to the deaths of the captives.

Angela Browning, the shadow Commons leader, said she would complain to the Ombudsman that ministers at the Foreign Office had dismissed reports of a rescue attempt that led to the subsequent murder of the hostages.

The Foreign Office received a fax from Moscow one Sunday night in 1998 that warned of the rescue operation, but ministers did not look into the information until the next day. The failed rescue attempt has since been blamed for the deaths of the four hostages.

"We know that this was the critical weekend, when, despite the fact that negotiations were progressing well, there was a dramatic change of circumstances... which resulted in the hostages being beheaded," Mrs Browning said. "I believe that there are lessons to be learnt about the way the Government handled this case and also about the way the events were investigated after [the] deaths."

Rudi Petschi, who was one of Mrs Browning's constituents, two other British men and a New Zealander were in Grozny working on a contract to install telecommunications equipment for Chechen Telecom in 1998. Tony Lloyd, who was a Foreign Office minister at that time, explained that there was a vast amount of information coming out of Russia and that it would have been impossible to keep track of all of it.

Foreign Office officials have since indicated that the hostages' deaths came when two armed gangs - one holding the hostages, the other trying to release them - fought over the captives and that the fax from Moscow warning of the rescue attempt, which was sent by the head of the Chechen security forces, was not relevant to the hostages' murder.

Comments