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Kidnapped Lukoil VP released on 25 September

LUKoil First Vice President Sergei Kukura, the No. 2 person in Russia's largest oil company who was kidnapped on 12 September, was released by his as-yet-unidentified kidnappers on 25 September, Russian news agencies reported on 26 September.

Reports about the release -- including the motive for the kidnapping, the identity of the kidnappers, and the conditions under which Kukura was released -- varied widely. "Kommersant-Daily" cited unnamed investigators working on the case as saying the kidnapping was staged by LUKoil itself for internal reasons. reported that the abduction was genuine and that LUKoil paid a ransom of $3 million and 3 million euros to secure Kukura's release. expressed skepticism over the entire incident, arguing that the commercial secrets that Kukura possesses are worth billions of dollars, not millions. The website concluded that it is very unlikely we will ever hear the true story about this case from investigators or anybody else.

Kukura was abducted by a group of armed men at a railroad crossing near Moscow on the morning of 12 September, and his bodyguard and driver were given injections that knocked them out. The attackers drove off in a car with police license plates, investigators said. According to "Izvestiya," the kidnappers targeted Kukura because of his wealth. The executive's monthly salary is $1.8 million dollars and his total income amounts to 50 million dollars a year, according to the Russian media.

AFP reported on 23 September that the criminal explanation does not convince everyone. Writing in the 25 September issue of "The Moscow Times," Yuliya Latynina wrote: "Kukura is privy to all of LUKoil's financial secrets. And the finances of Russian companies do not flow in a straight line -- they go via Cyprus."

(RFE/RL 26.ix.02)

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