12/18/2012, 00.00
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Ransom for two Russians and one Italian abducted in Syria

All three were taken on the road that leads from Homs to Tarsus where Moscow has its only naval base in the Mediterranean. One of the Russians also has Syrian citizenship. More Russian naval ships are on the way to the area.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Russia's foreign minister announced today online that the still unknown kidnappers of two Russians and one Italian have asked for a ransom in exchange for their release. "The abductors," said the online ministerial note, "demanded by telephone that this company [Hmisho Group] pay a ransom in return for the men's release."

Russian Foreign Minister Serghei Lavrov said that all necessary steps would be taken in Syria and elsewhere to ensure the hostages' release.

The Italian government said that it was working to ensure the safety of the Italian national, 64-year-old Mario Belluomo, but sources in Moscow said that any rescue operation would be handled by Russia.

According to Russia's embassy in Damascus, the three were taken from their car on the road that links Homs to Tartus.

The two Russians are V. V. Gorolev and Abdessattar Hassoun. The former arrived in Syria in early October whilst the latter also holds Syrian citizenship.

The Russian Foreign Ministry urged its nationals to avoid travelling to Syria, because of the on-going intense internal armed conflict.

Russian military sources said the Kremlin is sending warships from the Baltic Fleet and support vessels to the Syrian coast to evacuate Russian nationals towards the Black Sea in case of need.

Located some 200 kilometres from Damascus, Tarsus is Syria' second most important port. It is also Moscow's only naval base in the Mediterranean.

Russia is Syria's main weapons supplier, with sales estimated at US$ 5 billion with Tarsus as its main point of delivery.


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