BEIRUT, March 11 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva, abducted by Syrian militants in October and held for a $50 million ransom, has escaped and is now safe, she told RIA Novosti by telephone on Monday.
“I was a captive of the Free Syrian Army military council,” she said.
“At about 6 a.m. this morning I ran away from a Homs suburb. I was held in al-Bueida, a south Homs suburb; there is a lake there and this morning I was carried across that lake.”
“I walked and walked, and the first person I met was the one I needed,” she said.
Kochneva’s abductors mistreated her, she said.
“It was bad. Their [the abductors’] living conditions are poor and my conditions were even worse,” the journalist said. “I will now have to undergo medical treatment for a long time and at great cost.”
“I took a terrible risk, as I had to walk across an area leading on to minefields,” she said, adding that she was now being protected and “en route to Damascus.”
News of her escape was broken by her ex-husband Dmitry Petrov, after which a message appeared on Kochneva’s LiveJournal page, saying: “Didn’t expect [me]? Your Alice has returned from behind the looking glass. Details to come later.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday that Kochneva escaped her captors.
“We are expecting her to arrive at the Ukrainian Embassy in Syria tomorrow, on Tuesday," a ministry source told RIA Novosti by telephone.
In mid-January, Petrov said her kidnappers had reduced the ransom for Kochneva from $50 million to $20 million.
Kochneva, known as an expert on Syrian affairs, has been in Syria since the start of the conflict. An outspoken supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, she was freelancing for several Russian media outlets, including the NTV, RenTV and RT channels and the Utro.Ru news portal.
After she was kidnapped in October, she appeared in a video posted on YouTube in which she "confessed" to working for Russian intelligence. Her captors claim Kochneva was armed and had acted as an interpreter for Russian officers.
Updated with Kochneva's quotes throughout the text