MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva, who was held captive by militants in Syria for five months before she escaped last month, has returned to the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, she told RIA Novosti by phone on Tuesday.
Kochneva said she had no plans “to change her place of residence on account of some bandits.”
She will live in a rented apartment in Damascus under constant armed guard, the journalist said, adding she would not rule out the possibility of obtaining Syrian citizenship if it is offered to her.
Kochneva said she would continue to run her tourism business and help foreign journalists working in Syria, but has no plans to move her daughter, who lives and studies in Moscow, to Damascus.
The 40-year-old reporter arrived back in her native Ukraine in mid-March. Kochneva previously 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 and had threatened to kill her if the ransom wasn’t paid.
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.
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 said she was armed and was acting as an interpreter for Russian security services.