Kiev, March 19 (IANS/RIA Novosti) A Ukrainian journalist who last week fled from militants in Syria that had been holding her captive for five months has returned to her home country, Ukrainian officials said.
Ankhar Kochneva vowed she will return to the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, despite being a prime target for reprisal among antigovernment militants.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the 40-year old reporter arrived in the capital, Kiev, Sunday, and that her state of health was “satisfactory”.
Kochneva last week told RIA Novosti she had been mistreated by her captors in the Free Syrian Army opposition group. She said the group had been seeking a ransom of up to $50 million.
Kochneva, an ardent supporter of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, was freelancing for a number of Russian media outlets – including the NTV, RenTV and RT channels and the Utro.Ru news portal – when she was kidnapped in October.
She told Ukraine’s Segodnya daily that she was prepared to return to Syria, although “they say I’m now on the militants’ (execution) list – second after President Assad”.
She said her captors were stunned by her escape and that they claimed to have received a $5 million ransom “in order not to lose face”.
News of Kochneva’s escape was first announced by her ex-husband Dmitry Petrov and later confirmed in a message on Kochneva’s blog.
In mid-January, Petrov claimed Kochneva’s kidnappers had reduced their ransom demand from $50 million to $20 million.
Kochneva, known as a specialist in Syrian affairs, had been in the country since the outbreak of the conflict.
After her kidnapping, she appeared in a video posted online apparently confessing to working for Russian intelligence. Kochneva has since recanted that confession.
Kochneva’s captors say she was armed and was acting as an interpreter for Russian security services.