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MOSCOW, February 9 (Itar-Tass) – Russia’s veteran steelworker, whom Syrian militants held hostage for 54 days, is to fly back home on Saturday, the authorities of the Kemerovo Region said.
The man, Viktor Gorelov, will take a direct Aeroflot flight from Beirut. From Moscow he will proceed to Novokuznetsk where he will reunite with his family.
Gorelov, an experienced materials processing engineer, with a 42-year work record at the West Siberia Metallurgical Combine – has many times worked on assignments in India and China to commission blast furnaces. On October 6 last year he went to Syria under a contract between a Yekaterinburg firm and the private company Hmisho.
On December 12 armed opposition militants abducted Gorelov together with his Syrian interpreter Abdel Sattar Hassun, having Russian citizenship, and Italian citizen Mario Belluomo. All of them were released on February 3 in exchange for militants taken prisoner by the Syrian army.
“It took the abductors a while to decide our future. Apparently, they were bargaining among themselves over what is to be done to us. We were taken from place to place during nighttime. They kept us at each address for no more than two or three days. We had meals twice a day – tea, coffee, bread and canned food. Also, we were given warm clothes and a blanket for the night. Yet there were some very dramatic moments, when we had the feeling that those would be the last days and minutes in our life,” Gorelov told Itar-Tass correspondent Dmitry Zelenin in Beirut.
The steel worker recalls that quite often the hostages were guarded by 14-year-old youths, who were very emotional and waving rifles all the time.
“When I was allowed to call home a second time – that was after the New Year holidays, I said goodbye to my wife just in case and asked to remember me,” he said.
Now, Gorelov said, he is beginning to feel more at ease.
“It’s good my health did not fail me,” he said.
Gorelov was unable to leave Syria immediately after his release due to problems with documents. The press-service of the Kemerovo Region’s government said the foreign Ministry, the Russian embassy in Syria, the chief of the consular department, Karen Vasilian, and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev did their utmost for his early return.
At home Gorelov will take a course of rehabilitation treatment. The regional government will fund all expenses, Governor Tuleyev said. The Evraz group, of which the West Siberian Combine (Gorelov’s former employer) is an affiliate, will take care of its employee, too.