Kiev demands freedom for kidnapped journalist
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Dikusarov said Kiev expected more tangible results from regime’s action to secure a safe release of the Ukrainian.
“Ukraine demands an immediate release of Ankhar Kochneva and will take action to get the issue of violence against a civilian into international discussion,” Mr. Dikusarov said.
Ukraine hopes this act of rebel violence will be harshly condemned and punished by the international community, he added.
Ankhar Kochneva worked as an interpreter for a Russian TV crew when she was kidnapped by Syrian militants. The same day, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich gave instructions to the country’s foreign office to do everything possible to free the journalist.
Syrian militants are threatening to execute journalist Ankhar Kochneva. They are demanding 50 million U.S. dollars for her life. The ultimatum that was signed by the field commanders of the paramilitary wing of the opposition Free Syrian Army expires on December 13th.
Militants say that Ankhar Kochneva is a “Ukrainian spy”. Kochneva, a Ukrainian citizen, lived in Russia for the past 10 years. In January this year she went to Syria to work there as a journalist and translator. Ankhar Kochneva is the author of many interesting and exciting reports for Russian media outlets.
The Voice of Russia “contacted” her when it was necessary to comment on the situation in the hot spots in Syria, including Homs. Whenever a call from Moscow came, Ankhar Kochneva was always at a combat post.
Her reports were always different from the picture presented by the Al Jazeera TV Channel and other media that supported the fight of the irreconcilable opposition against the Syrian authorities. Most likely, it was exactly her objective opinion about the developments in Syria that pushed all those who are standing up for militants to kidnap Ankhar which occurred on October 7th .
In a November 28th video address she asked Russia’s and Ukraine’s governments to fulfill the kidnappers’ demands. For their part, a number of Russian media outlets urged Syrian ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad to do all in his power so that Ankhar Kochneva could be freed as soon as possible. The Russian Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria is making efforts in this direction, one of the heads of the non-governmental organization Darya Mitina says.
"The ultimatum, delivered by the militants, is urging the parties concerned to start searching for non-trivial solutions as well as for an advancement in the talks. Regrettably, for the time being, the means to influence the militants are limited. We have applied to international human rights and journalist agencies with a request to pay continued attention to this topic on both radio and television. There is little information about the kidnapping attack now, taking into account the role Kochneva played in the public information space."
As a rule, no details are given about talks with kidnappers or about the ransom terms. Judging by the facts, the talks are currently under way. An expert with the Institute of Oriental Studies, Vladimir Isayev, says:
"Russia has established contacts with the Syrian opposition. Some time ago talks with opposition representatives were held in Moscow. However, I don’t think that they are involved in the kidnapping. Therefore, I don’t know whether Russia has any possibility or any contacts to influence the opposition and thus, to ensure the release of Ankhar Cochneva. And quite another matter is the fact that Russia can appeal to all those who support the Syrian opposition – for example, to Turkey with which top-level talks were recently held."
A week after Ankhar Kochneva was kidnapped, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych gave instructions to his aides to do everything possible for secure her release. This occurred on October 15th . No other reports about Kiev’s stand have come since then.
A group of Syrian rebels have threatened to kill the Ukrainian journalist captured on October 9 if they are not paid a ransom.
The deadline for the ransom payment is set for December 13, 2012, the journalist’s friend and Russian ex-MP Darya Mitina has told reporters. “If the money isn’t paid by that time, she will be killed as a ‘Ukrainian spy’,” she added.
Ankhar Kochneva’s relatives have confirmed that the kidnappers contacted them and demanded a ransom but said they didn’t believe December 13 was the deadline.
Kochneva’s nephew Dmitry was cited as saying he had no detail of negotiations to free his aunt. “The foreign office is saying they are working on it. But we don’t know what exactly is being done,” he said.
Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist who went missing in Syria on October 10, contacted her relatives for the first time on Sunday, saying she hoped everything would be fine and asking not to call her.
Kochneva’s ex-husband Dmitry Petrov told Russia’s Izvestia newspaper he had received an SMS from the journalist’s phone number reading: “I hope for the best. Don’t message me.”
A similar text was reportedly sent to one of her friends. In it Koncheva also mentioned that she had been kidnapped.
The Russian embassy in Damascus has shown active support of Ukrainian authorities in their search for the 40-year-old, who was believed to be an active advocate of the Assad regime.
She was allegedly abducted by Syrian rebels in the outskirts of Homs. Russian journalist Yelena Gromova confessed she and her close friend Ankhar Koncheva often received threatening messages from the Moscow-based Syrian opposition on social networking sites.
Ankhar Kochneva, a journalist kidnapped in Syria, was a Ukrainian national, said Sergei Marov, spokesman of the Russian embassy in Damascus.
“It’s become known to the Russian embassy that she was a citizen of Ukraine. She wasn’t accredited to work here [in Syria],” he reported.
Mr. Markov said the Russian diplomatic mission was closely cooperating with Ukrainian officials looking for the journalist.
Ankhar Kochneva went missing Friday. Her friend Darya Mitina said she was last seen 20 kilometers from the city of Homs.
Voice of Russia, RIA, Rosbalt, Interfax