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2 Russians Kidnapped, 1 Killed in Iraq - 2004-05-11

In a second such incident in less than a month, unknown assailants in Iraq kidnapped two Russian employees of a private engineering company.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko confirmed reports of the attack against Russian citizens in Baghdad on Tuesday, and said the time has come for all remaining Russian nationals in Iraq to leave.

In remarks broadcast on Russian television, Mr. Yakovenko said all possible measures are being taken to free the two hostages. He said there has been no claim of responsibility and no demands for a ransom.

Mr. Yakovenko said the Russian embassy in Baghdad was working to clarify details of the incident that occurred late Monday. Early reports say the workers were returning to Baghdad from the power station they are helping to construct about 30 kilometers south of the Iraqi capital when unknown assailants opened fire on the car, killing one of the Russians and seizing two others.

He said the government has long warned its citizens that the situation in Iraq is too dangerous, and renewed the appeal to Russian nationals in Iraq to leave. He said the Russian embassy in Baghdad would assist them in their evacuation.

After last month's voluntary evacuation, which followed an earlier kidnapping of Russian workers, about 300 Russian nationals remain in Iraq. In the earlier incident, eight employees of the private firm Interenergoservis were kidnapped, but all were released the next day, apparently when the captors discovered most were Russians.

The Moscow representative for the firm, Yevgeny Loginov, says the company is also considering a full-scale evacuation of its workers.

Mr. Loginov says the company is working with Iraqi officials in an effort to improve security conditions for foreign nationals in Baghdad.

Many of those kidnapped in Iraq were from countries that have sent troops to Iraq to fight the U.S.-led war or take part in the stabilization effort. But Russia has no troops in Iraq and was among the most vocal opponents of the war. Most of the Russians in Iraq are civilians working for Russian contractors.