BOGOTA – The Colombian government on Tuesday confirmed the murder of a Russian citizen kidnapped last November by the ELN guerrillas in western Choco province and demanded that the rebels, with whom it came to a cease-fire agreement that will enter into force in October, return the body.
“The Russian was murdered by the ELN, as they themselves recently admitted,” the head of the official Colombian government delegation to the talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Juan Camilo Restrepo, said at a Bogota press conference.
The victim, Russian-Armenian Voskanya Arcen Levoni, had been kidnapped on Nov. 5, 2016, “while he was collecting poisonous frogs to traffic ... in the international market,” the guerrillas said in April.
Restrepo said that “for several months” he and his fellow negotiators had been urging at the negotiations with the ELN in Quito that the rebels facilitate the return of Levoni’s body to his relatives, adding that they have said that they are giving instructions to rebels in the field to return the body “as soon as possible.”
According to Restrepo, Levoni’s body “is buried somewhere in the ... jungle” and he said he hopes that the ELN, as they have agreed verbally and in writing, deliver it quickly.
On April 23, the ELN said that a Russian citizen they had kidnapped and whom they were planning to release had escaped four days earlier, after attacking and seriously injuring several insurgents and being wounded himself in the process.
The cease-fire signed between the Colombian government and the ELN on Monday will go into effect on Oct. 1 and run until Jan. 12, 2018, and among its provisions are that the rebels must stop kidnapping people, attacking infrastructure, recruiting minors and planting antipersonnel landmines.