MOSCOW - A video message purporting to show a Russian man abducted in Syria set a deadline of five days for the release of a detained Saudi national in exchange for the Russian's freedom.
The footage posted on YouTube showed a bearded man who identified himself as Sergei Gorbunov and who read a statement saying he would be killed unless he could be swapped for Khaled Suleiman, a Saudi he said had been detained in the city of Hama.
"If I am not exchanged in five days, I will be butchered," he said in a trembling voice on a grainy video that was also aired on state-run Russian television on Thursday. Russia has been Syrian President Bashar Assad's most powerful ally during a conflict which began with a crackdown on protests in 2011 but which has turned into a civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed.
An Arabic caption under the video, whose authenticity could not immediately be verified, said the man was captured by the Mujahideen of Ibn Taymiyyah Brigade.
It said he is asking Russia and Syria to agree a hostage swap between him and Khaled Mohammed Suleiman, who it says was captured in Hama by "the Alawite regime" - a reference to Assad's government.