PARIS Dec 13 Media freedom group Reporters Sans
Frontieres said on Thursday it was extremely concerned for a
Ukrainian journalist kidnapped in Syria, as the deadline passed
for a huge ransom demand from a group threatening to kill her.
Anhar Kochneva, who had been reporting for Russian media
outlets in Syria, was taken hostage in October near Homs.
"Her kidnappers, allegedly members of the Free Syrian Army
(FSA), have threatened to kill her tomorrow, Dec. 13 2012, if
their demand for $50 million is not paid," a statement from the
Paris-based RSF and three other groups said ahead of the
deadline on Wednesday.
The groups called on the new Syrian National Coalition,
which has close ties with the rebel FSA, to secure the release
of the reporter immediately.
"We also call on the French, British and U.S. governments,
as well as the European Union, to fully engage the National
Coalition in compelling the FSA to facilitate Kochneva's
release," the statement said.
It added that as those countries had recognised the
coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people
they bore a responsibility in highlighting to the coalition the
need to respect human rights and condemn violations.
The coalition won recognition on Wednesday from "the Friends
of Syria" group that opposes President Bashar al-Assad.
RSF said that Kochneva was known for criticising the Syrian
opposition, which she had publicly accused of cruelty to
civilians and prisoners.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry
said it was continuing dialogue with her captors and taking "all
measures" to release her.
"Ukraine again expresses its deep concern over the situation
around Anhar Kochneva who is illegally held in Syria by a group
which calls itself a unit of the FSA," it said.
In video messages posted by her captors over the last two
months, Kochneva has appealed to Ukraine and Russia to meet
In one video message dated Nov. 28 she reads out a statement
in Arabic admitting she had been working as a military
interpreter with Russian and Syrian officers.
"We are deeply concerned that in both video appeals the
journalist seems to be speaking under pressure," RSF said.
Russia has shielded Assad's government from U.N. Security
Council censure, resisting Western pressure to join efforts to
push him from power, and has condemned the recognition of the
new coalition by the United States and its allies.