Russian Police Free Israeli Family Held Captive by Gang

The Russian anti-organized crime unit rescued Natalya Brok, from Tel Aviv, at the beginning of the month from an apartment in Russia, where she had been held captive and beaten for two months, along with her three small daughters. Her alleged captors were a gang that included her half-sister and her sister's partner. The gang allegedly wanted to force Brok, 29, to give them ownership of a Moscow apartment that belonged to the family.

Brok and her daughters returned to Israel yesterday morning, at which point the Russian police released the story for publication.

Israeli police officials said yesterday that according to their investigation, Brok left Tel Aviv for Moscow at the beginning of August to open a business. A few days later, she traveled to a city about 200 kilometers from Moscow to visit her half-sister and the sister's partner, a known felon. When the man began to believe that Brok was well-off, he allegedly decided to take her and her daughters hostage to extort money from them. Police sources said yesterday that the half-sister has been against the plan at first, but later cooperated with the kidnappers.

Brok and her daughters were moved to another location and kept in a basement. But when the captors realized Brok had no money, they demanded she give them the deed to her mother's house in Moscow in exchange for her freedom. Brok told her captors that the documents were in Israel, so they suggested that she leave her daughters behind as hostages and go retrieve the papers.

On October 11, one of the girls managed to sneak into the living room while the captors were drunk and asleep, and brought a phone to her mother. Brok called her mother, Raya, in Israel, and told her what had happened. Raya immediately turned to the police.

As soon as the police received the information, which yesterday they called "bizarre," detectives informed the intelligence division's special tasks department, which alerted the Russian police representative in Israel, Andrei Kutuzov. Kutuzov informed the Russian police's organized crime unit. The unit quickly located three addresses where it thought Brok was being held. Eight hours after the complaint was filed, a Russian police squad found Brok and her daughters hiding under the bed at one of the three locales.

Raya Brok said yesterday that she was furious that the media had not followed the case throughout. "Where was the media when I complained to Interpol, when I went to the police, the Russian consul and to all the possible officials? I asked why the matter wasn't in the news. Nobody did anything with it. Only now, after a miracle happened, everybody's suddenly interested in us," Raya Brok said.