Russia frees kidnapped Ukrainian citizen in Afghanistan

Moscow has helped free a Ukrainian citizen who had long been kept prisoner by illegal armed groups in Afghanistan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday, adding that the man is ready to be transferred to Ukrainian authorities.

The operation which resulted in the release of Dmitry Bely was successful due to the joint efforts of Russian and Afghan authorities, the ministry said in a statement.  

“We are glad that our efforts helped save the life of the Ukrainian citizen and restore his freedom,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

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Dmitry is now safe, and Russian authorities are ready to transfer him to Ukrainian officials in Afghanistan “at any convenient time,” according to the ministry.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said they had no information about Bely’s release.

“Bely’s wife, indeed, informed us that her husband had vanished while on the Afghan territory, and we took every step in cooperation with relevant Ukrainian authorities and the Afghan side to look for him,” she told RIA Novosti.

RT’s Ruptly agency has released footage of Bely meeting Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Alexander Mantytskiy to thank the Russian authorities for their help in rescuing him. 

“I want to thank you personally, along with your colleagues, for providing help. The situation felt desperate, but, thank God, everything has been resolved,” Bely said. 

Mantytskiy said the next step would be checking the man’s identity and physical condition, as procedure requires.

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Bely was working for a construction company in Afghanistan when he was taken hostage by militants earlier this year. His kidnappers published a video showing the Ukrainian national in early August. Kiev was able to confirm the video’s authenticity.

Afghanistan has been in political and social turmoil, as the Taliban jihadist group has intensified its insurgency across the country.

In the most recent development, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has taken control of significant territory in Afghanistan, ousting the rival Taliban. 

The Taliban and IS are said to have declared holy war (jihad) on each other in April 2015, after IS leader Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi called Taliban leader Mullah Omar “a fool and an illiterate warlord.”