A Russian photographer has been abducted by a group of Syrian rebels who accuse him of being a spy, the Russian foreign ministry said Saturday.
Konstantin Zhuravlev is being held by the Islamist group Liwa al-Tawhid, said foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, adding that he was seized in Syria's second city Aleppo.
The 32-year-old had hitchhiked from Siberia and entered Syria via Turkey. He was thought to be travelling through Syria en route to the Sahara desert.
“The Russian embassy is in close contact with the Syrian authorities to urgently establish all the circumstances of this incident and to free the Russian citizen,” Lukashevich told Echo of Moscow radio station.
The rebels claim that Zhuravlev is a “spy” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and promised to broadcast a video with his confession, in a message posted on social networks.
The Russian foreign ministry “categorically opposes” its citizens travelling “unauthorized” into Syria, Lukashevich said, warning of the “dangerous consequences” of such trips.
According to Russian news agencies, the kidnapping took place on September 30.
Zhuravlev is a photographer and experienced traveller, who toured the world for 777 days between June 2010 and August 2012.
He planned to visit the Sahara to spend 21 days alone “face-to-face with the desert”, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Russian photographer abducted by Syrian rebels