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Kidnapped Ukrainian reporter escapes captors in Syria

KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian journalist kidnapped by Syrian rebels last October has escaped from her captors and is now in the Syrian capital Damascus, her nephew said on Monday.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry confirmed that Anhar Kochneva was free, though it had no word on the circumstances.

"Kochneva has been in contact with our embassy. She is free and we expect her to be at the Ukrainian embassy in Damascus tomorrow," a ministry spokesman said.

Kochneva's nephew, Dmitry Astafurov, was quoted by Interfax news agency saying: "She escaped this morning. We spoke by telephone with her for a couple of minutes. She said people had taken her to Damascus."

Kochneva, who was taken hostage near Homs by members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main armed opposition force in the two-year revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, announced she was free on her Livejournal blog page.

"Were you waiting? Your Alice has returned from Wonderland. Details later," her post read.

Her kidnappers had at one point last December threatened to kill Kochneva, who worked for Russian media outlets, if a ransom of $50 million was not paid.

They later reduced their ransom demand to $300,000, Interfax said.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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