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Former Russian Hostage Returns Home, Another Remains in Iraq - 2004-05-18


Two Russian engineers who spent a week in captivity in Iraq have been released. One is back in Moscow, but the other decided to remain in Baghdad, despite the Russian government's warnings the workers' lives in Iraq were in danger. The plane carrying Russian engineer Alexander Gordiyenko and more than 100 other employees of the private energy firm, Interenergoservis, touched down at Moscow's Domededevo airport Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Gordiyenko smiled broadly, as he spoke to a crowd awaiting his return.

Referring to his abduction, Mr. Gordiyenko says that, in such a difficult situation, a person cannot even think. He says, now that he is out of Iraq, he can't wait to get home to his family.

Mr. Gordiyenko, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, had been in Iraq just eight days when the car in which he and his co-workers were traveling was attacked by armed men. He and his colleague, Andrei Meshcheryakov, were captured, and another employee of the company was killed.

Mr. Meshcheryakov decided to stay in Baghdad. His mother told Russian news agencies that she was unable to convince her son to return. She says he called home Monday evening to tell her he was free and safe, and that he saw no danger in staying in Baghdad. He is on his second contract with the firm, which is helping to build a power plant, about 30 kilometers south of the Iraqi capital.

The Russian Foreign Ministry gave no details about the release of the two men Monday, other than to say no ransom was paid.

The director of Interenergoservis said in the previous kidnapping of its eight employees in April, all the workers were released, apparently after their abductors learned they were from Russia. The Kremlin was among the most vocal opponents of the war in Iraq. It now calls for a greater involvement of the United Nations in Iraq's reconstruction.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly advised Russian workers in Iraq to leave, until security improves.

Interenergoservis, which is the largest Russian employer in Iraq, has said it would continue to do business there, despite the security risks. More than 200 of its employees decided to stay in Iraq.

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