DAMASCUS, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – A Ukrainian journalist who escaped from captivity in Syria has been handed over to Ukrainian officials in Damascus by the Syrian authorities.
“The Syrian side, taking all necessary precautions, delivered me to the building of the Syrian foreign ministry, where in the presence of Russian Ambassador Azamat Kulmukhametov I was handed over to Charge d’Affaires of Ukraine Yevhen Zhupeyev,” Ankhar Kochneva said in a telephone conversation with RIA Novosti late on Tuesday.
“I am in a safe place now,” she said.
Kochneva earlier said she was held near the central city of Homs by the military council of the Free Syrian Army and was treated poorly by her captors.
She escaped on Monday after spending more than 150 days in captivity.
Her kidnappers initially demanded a $50 mln ransom which has been later reduced to $20 mln.
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.