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Afghan security guards in Herat, January 2019

Retired Russian colonel is freed in Afghanistan after a month in captivity

Source: RBC
Afghan security guards in Herat, January 2019
Afghan security guards in Herat, January 2019
imago / Xinhua / Scanpix / LETA

Retired Colonel Alexander Lavrentyev, a member of Russia’s Cross-Agency P.O.W. Commission, spent a month in captivity in Afghanistan, the officer’s friends told the news website RBC.

On March 26, 2019, Lavrentyev arrived in the province of Herat on an expedition to find and identify the remains of Soviet soldiers who went missing during the USSR’s war in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. On the way from the airport, Lavrentyev was taken hostage by assailants (presumably Taliban combatants) who were tipped off by his local Afghan fixer. Three days later, Lavrentyev’s interpreter came to Russia’s embassy in Kabul and delivered the kidnappers’ ransom demands.

Lavrentyev says his captors forced him to walk barefoot on stones, to injure his feet and prevent him from running away. To wear him down further, the kidnappers twice staged his execution.

Alexander Lavrentyev

On April 22, Lavrentyev was freed in a special operation coordinated by Russia’s Foreign Ministry and the Afghan National Security Directorate. A source close to local law enforcement told RBC that the ransom wasn’t paid. Instead, Afghan special forces seized several Taliban figures and traded them for the Russian prisoner.

On April 30, Lavrentyev returned to Moscow, where he underwent eye surgery to repair an injury he received in captivity. He’s also recovering from the wounds to his feet, and is currently only able to walk in “thick socks.”

Summary by Alexander Filimonov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock