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Rights group urges action on missing Russian reporter

Written by: Staff

GROZNY, Russia, Aug 24 (Reuters) Reporters Without Borders demanded urgent action today to locate a journalist from Russia's Chechnya region who went missing two days after complaining local security forces were hounding her.

A rights activist said Elina Ersenoyeva wrote to her saying she was being threatened by 'the Kadyrovtsy' - a security force controlled by Chechnya's Moscow-backed Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov which critics say is guilty of rights abuses.

Ersenoyeva, 26, has been missing since August 17 when armed men in masks and camouflage outfits bundled her and her aunt into a car on Grozny's main throroughfare in broad daylight. The aunt was released later.

People frequently disappear in Chechnya, scene of a decade-long war between Moscow and separatist rebels.

''We call on the Chechen and Russian authorities to do everything possible to get (Ersenoyeva) freed as soon as possible,'' Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for journalists' rights, said in a statement.

The separatist rebellion has been driven underground in Chechnya and Moscow has handed de facto control over the Muslim region to local strongman Kadyrov.

Acquaintances of Ersenoyeva said she was married to a rebel fighter who died this year.

Police told Ersenoyeva's family they had opened an investigation. Officials could not immediately be reached for comment. In the past, Kadyrov has denied that his men have been involved in abductions or rights abuses.

''On the day it happened, my daughter rang three times but she did not say where she was. She only said she was being questioned and would soon be released,'' Ersenoyeva's mother Rita told Reuters.

''We have been unable to ring her. Her (mobile) phone is switched off all the time.'' Human rights activist Tatyana Lokshina said she received an email from Ersenoyeva appealing for help two days before she went missing.

''The 'security structures' are threatening me and my family with violence because my husband was a rebel,'' Lokshina quoted Ersenoyeva as saying. ''For the most part this is being done by the so-called 'Kadyrovtsy.''' Reuters LL RN2021

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