Russian citizen 'kidnapped' by Syrian rebels: Report

Russian citizen 'kidnapped' by Syrian rebels: Report

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia is investigating reports one of its citizens was kidnapped in Syria after a video of the man pleading to be rescued was posted online, a report said Oct. 24.

The video, posted on YouTube, shows a man who identifies himself as Russian citizen Sergei Gorbunov and asks Moscow to help free him.

He says his captors will release him in exchange for a Saudi national, but failing that, have threatened to kill him within five days. "I ask the presidents of Syria, Russia, the Red Cross... I am very afraid... I want to return to Russia. Help me," he says in lightly accented Russian.

The Russian foreign ministry is investigating the video, which has been widely broadcast on television, a source told the Interfax news agency.

"The information about the situation concerning Russian citizen Sergei Gorbunov in Syria is being checked by the Russian embassy in Damascus," the source said.

News agencies said the kidnapping had already been claimed by Katiba al-Muhajireen, an Islamist group comprised mainly of foreign fighters, including many from Chechnya.

The video shows the man, who has short hair and a beard, sitting down against a white wall.

 He says he was captured at the Menagh airport and that his captors want to exchange him for a Saudi national named Khaled Suleiman, who was detained in the central Syrian city of Hama.

Menagh is a military airport near Aleppo that was seized several months ago by Islamist rebels.

"The Muslims told me that I can be exchanged," he says in the blurry footage. "If I am not exchanged in five days, then they will kill me." He appears to struggle to read the statement, sometimes stuttering, but says he is being given food and is "treated well."