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Chirac Thanked Yeltsin for Saving Abducted French UN Official - Former Russian Minister

© Sputnik / Alexander Makarov /  / Go to the mediabankFormer Russian president Boris Yeltsin
Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.01.2022
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - In the late 1990s, then French President Jacques Chirac personally called Russian President Boris Yeltsin to thank him for the help in rescuing abducted French UN official Vincent Cochetel in the Caucasus, former Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said on Sunday.
Cochetel was abducted on January 29, 1998 in Vladikavkaz, the capital city of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. The French official served at the time as the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in the North Caucasus.
On December 12, 1998, Cochetel was released as a result of a special operation of the Russian Interior Ministry with the participation of Deputy Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Mikhail Gutseriev, now influential businessman and billionaire. In the 1990s, Gutseriev founded the Ingushetia Special Economic Zone, the first of its kind in Russia, and supervised it as Vice-Speaker of the State Duma.
"Cochetel was released and returned to Moscow. He spoke very warmly about those who saved him. He remembered me, Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], Mikhail Safarbekovich [Gutseriev], Vladimir Rushailo. Chirac then called Yeltsin and expressed his deep gratitude to him," Stepashin said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Gutseriev put pressure on Chechen businessmen, which helped to rescue Cochetel, who spent almost a year in Chechen captivity, the former official noted. Gutseriev also helped in the rescue of Russian President's Plenipotentiary Representative in Chechnya Valentin Vlasov.
"I then told Yeltsin, it would be nice to award Gutseriev with a state award. But Mikhail Safarbekovich, after finding out about this, objected, [saying] 'I don’t need awards for this - I'm not fighting'," Stepashin said.
Stepashin added that he himself was awarded the Commander Order of the Legion of Honour by the French, but, according to him, this merit should be shared between him and Gutseriev. Stepashin also expressed his sincere gratitude to Gutseriev for his participation in the rescue of Russian soldiers, for his courage and bravery.
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