Kidnapped Ukrainian reporter returns to Syria

Moscow, April 3 : 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 country.

Kochneva told RIA Novosti by phone that 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 that 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 March. Kochneva previously said 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 USD 50 million and had threatened to kill her if the ransom was not 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 2012.

News of her escape was first announced by her ex-husband and later confirmed in a message on Kochneva's blog.

In January, Petrov claimed Kochneva's kidnappers had reduced their ransom demand from USD 50 million to USD 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.

--IANS (Posted on 03-04-2013)

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