January 09, 2003

Head of MSF Mission in Dagestan Remains Missing; MSF Demands His Immediate Release

Moscow, January 10, 2003 – MSF welcomes the release of Nina Davydovich, the head of Druzhba, a Russian NGO, after 168 days of captivity. MSF wishes her the strength to make a speedy recovery from her ordeal and hopes that she will be reunited with her friends and family as soon as possible.

Shortly after Nina was kidnapped on July 23rd, Arjan Erkel, the Head of Mission for MSF in Dagestan was abducted by unidentified gunmen in Makhachkala. Arjan is 32 years old and has been a volunteer with MSF for more than 6 years. He started working in Dagestan in April 2002. After nearly five months, efforts by the authorities to solve the case have yielded no information as to Arjan's whereabouts or his state of health.

Nina's release gives MSF and Arjan's family the hope that Arjan may also be released soon. In this light, MSF insists the authorities do everything in their power to obtain his safe release.

MSF demands from Arjan's abductors that they respect his physical and mental integrity and release him unharmed.

Since Arjan's kidnapping, MSF's activities in Dagestan and Chechnya continue to be suspended. In Chechnya, however, MSF continues to provide direct life saving assistance in case of emergencies, which include cooperation with surgical and maternity units. MSF continues to provide assistance to the Internally Displaced in Ingushetia.