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Two Russian citizens have been abducted In Syria. On Tuesday, the criminals demanded a ransom for their release. The RF Foreign Ministry recommended Russian citizens to refrain from travelling to Syria. Meanwhile, the media reported that the Syrian opposition members have repeatedly issued threats to Russians.
It seems that the Syrian rebels after failed operations to seize the largest cities have changed their tactics, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily writes. They are more often resorting to pinpoint violence and pressure on separate countries that do not support the opposition to the current government. This time Russians have become their victims.
Press secretary of the Russian Embassy in Damascus Sergei Markov told the newspaper that three employees of a small private steel mill Hmisho & Co. were abducted on a road between Tartus and Homs on Monday when they were riding in a car. The mill is located in the Hasia industrial area near Homs. Two of them are Russian citizens – Vladimir Gorelov and Abdesattar Hassun. The third abducted person is Italian Mario Belluomo, aged 64.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “all the necessary steps are being taken both in Syria and in other countries that can influence the situation.” The RF Foreign Ministry also reiterated that it strongly recommends all Russian citizens to refrain from visiting Syria that “is going through the period of an acute internal armed conflict.”
Along with the Russian citizens, the terrorists hold hostage Ukrainian journalist Ankhar Kochneva, kidnapped in October this year and accused by the militants of “spying,” writes the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily. On the night of December 18, it became known that the rebels had postponed her execution. The Ukrainian TV channel “1 +1” obtained an interview with the commander of one of the grouping of Abu Jandal in which he says that the woman was to be put to death on December 16, but he gave her a “second chance.” The militants are still waiting for the Ukrainian side to meet their demands, though, in their view, Ukraine is not doing anything to save the hostage.
So far, none of the groups operating in Syria has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, the Novye Izvestia daily writes. It is only known that the kidnappers contacted the Hmisho & Co. plant demanding a ransom. Criminal gangs that specialise, among other crimes, in abductions, are active in Syria, primarily near the border with Iraq. However, the newspaper’s sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the abduction is very similar to purely criminal. It occurred in the vicinity of Tartus. This port city, populated mostly by Christians and Alawite Muslims is considered to be a stronghold of supporters of President Bashar Al-Assad. Many Russians leave here, also, a base of the Russian Navy is located here. The nearby section of the road to Homs, where Hmisho and Co. Steel mill is located in the Hasia industrial zone, is well guarded. Therefore, most likely, the adductors were carefully preparing for the crime and knew exactly the time when their victims would pass on the road.
The Syrian opposition has repeatedly issued threats to Russians, even at private meetings, stresses the newspaper. For example, about a year ago a video of TV debates between head of the Association of Friendship between Russia and Arab countries Vyacheslav Matuzov and one of the prominent opposition leaders, Sheikh Abdul Jalil al-Saeed, was very popular on the Internet. Al-Saeed promised outright that the Russians will become, as he put it, “the targets of the Free Syrian Army.”