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Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine

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Fears mount for Swede kidnapped in Ukraine
A tank in Horlivka. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky/TT
14:41 CEST+02:00
A mediator who handles prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels said on Wednesday that he feared for the life of a kidnapped Swede.

"Unfortunately I cannot unequivocally judge the situaiton right now," Vladimir Ruban, unofficial prisoner negotiator between the Ukrainian authorities and the separatists, said as reported in paper Dagens Nyheter. "I fear for your citizen's life." 

The 64-year-old Swede was kidnapped on July 20th, local media confirmed for The Local on Wednesday. However, Ukrainian reports of the date and circumstances have been disputed by other media, several of which have reported that the man has in fact been in custody for the past two weeks. 

Regardless, rebel warlord Igor Bezler is allegedly prepared to hand him over. But Ruban warned that the exchange may never happen - as the government in Kiev does not always keep its side of the bargain.

The proposed exchange is 15 hostages held by the rebels, including the Swedish man, in return for a 40-year-old woman, "Olga", accused of transferring money to the rebellion. 

"Two, three times, the authorities have been ready to release Olga," Ruban said, "But they always change their mind the last second."
 
The kidnapped man spoke with Swedish media on Tuesday. 

"They captured me at a road block," he told newspaper Aftonbladet. "They threatened me with a gun and took me to a compound. There are guns everywhere."

Bezler himself later confirmed the Swede was being held hostage in Horlivka. 

"He was arrested because he was reading a map right in the middle of a battle zone," he told Aftonbladet.

The Swede was then permitted to speak on the phone and said he felt fine "given the circumstances". He added that he had no idea why he had been detained, but he declined to explain what he had been doing in the area at the time.

"The only thing we can confirm is that we have information that a Swedish citizen may have been abducted against their will in Ukraine," said Fredrik Kärrholm at the National Criminal Investigation Department (Rikskriminalpolisen) to The Local on Monday.

"For security reasons, we don't comment further on any cases of this nature."

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