Russia Wraps Up Iraq Evacuation

The Moscow Times
Monday, Apr. 19, 2004. Page 3

Russia Wraps Up Iraq Evacuation

The Associated Press
Chris Helgren / Reuters

A boy headed for a Russian flight hugging his father goodbye Friday in
Baghdad.- Photo

A plane filled with 117 workers evacuated from Baghdad arrived in Moscow on
Friday evening, the last flight of a mission to pull out employees of
Russian companies in the wake of a kidnapping.

The abduction Monday of eight workers for a Russian company — who were
released the next day — led to plans for a massive evacuation. But the
effort was scaled back after hundreds of workers chose to stay, including
the eight former captives.

Eight flights were envisioned originally, but the mission ended with four
and a total of 483 workers; three other flights took place Thursday.

One of those brought back Friday was Sergei Brazhnikov, who had been wounded
by a stray shot this week, news reports said. Some reports said Brazhnikov
was hit in the leg by a bullet fired by a U.S. soldier near the power
station where he was working south of Baghdad.

But in footage on state television from Baghdad, Brazhnikov said, “Who and
what I don’t know. … I was caught by the fire.”

He said U.S. forces airlifted him to a field hospital, where he was operated

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said it was up to Russian
companies to decide whether to evacuate their employees.

“The Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens in Iraq today,
just as the coalition forces cannot do so,” he said.

Russia strongly opposed the U.S.-led war and has no military presence in
Iraq. But Russian media reports estimated Russian contracts in Iraq at up to
$1 billion and said some companies were trying to avoid massive losses
resulting from the evacuation.

Yakovenko said the evacuations do not mean that Russia is abandoning its
contracts in Iraq.

“As soon as the situation stabilizes in terms of security, our specialists
will return there,” he said. “In no way are we leaving Iraq.”

Ukraine has 1,650 soldiers under Polish command in southern Iraq. Itar-Tass
said those evacuated Thursday also included citizens of Belarus, Tajikistan
and Armenia, which do not have troops in Iraq.