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MOSCOW, August 8 /TASS/. The lives of a Mi-17 helicopter crew, including pilot S. Sevastyanov, are out of danger after the Taliban forces captured them in Afghanistan. The Russian side will negotiate their release, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
"The fact that most sources have confirmed that nothing is threatening the hostages’ lives is encouraging. The conditions for their release will be negotiated soon," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"We continue seeking the release of Russian pilot S.K. Sevastyanov who was taken prisoner by a Taliban group on August 4. The crew of the Pakistani-owned Mi-17 helicopter, including Sevastyanov and six Pakistani nationals, was captured by the Taliban when it made an emergency landing at the rebel-held territory in the Afghan province of Logar. The helicopter was on its way to Russia for repairs," the ministry source said.
"Reports about the crew’s fate have been controversial. The fact that most sources have confirmed there was no threat to the hostages’ lives is encouraging. The conditions for their release will be negotiated soon," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry added that the Russian embassies in Kabul and Islamabad (the crew comprises six Pakistani nationals) had been in contact with the authorities in both countries to discuss the crew’s release.
The Afghani president’s adviser, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, said that the Afghani authorities were exerting maximum efforts to release the hostages. They are trying to establish the identity of the militants who seized the crew and have launched an operation to comb the area where the helicopter landed.
"Pakistan’s political and military leadership has taken the Mi-17 crew release under personal control. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that all official and unofficial channels had been used to free the captives. General Raheel Sharif, the chief of the Pakistani Army General Staff, has asked Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan for assistance," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"The earliest release of our compatriot remains our priority task," the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.
A Pakistani-owned Mi-17 helicopter made an emergency landing in Afghanistan due a technical breakdown when it was heading for maintenance and repairs to an enterprise belonging to the Russian Helicopters Company.
The helicopter went on fire upon landing. The crew consisting of six retired Pakistani military and a Russian air navigator were not hurt. However, they were captured by the Taliban forces.
Russian Helicopters said Pakistan and Russia had struck a deal for the helicopter’s repairs in July 2016.