MOSCOW -- Two Russian steel plant workers and an Italian citizen kidnapped by rebels in Syria have been freed in exchange for captured rebel fighters, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Rebel militants captured the three on Dec. 12 as they traveled from Homs, a city in the country's west that has seen heavy fighting, to the tiny Russian military base at the port of Tartus.
The Foreign Ministry said Monday in a news release that the three were exchanged for captured fighters, but did not specify how many.
The abductions came as a prominent Syrian opposition leader said that Russians "present legitimate military targets for militants in Syria," citing the Russian government's support for Syria's embattled president, Bashar al-Assad.
Syria's opposition coalition later rejected the statement and condemned attacks against all civilians "regardless of their nationality."
The two Russians, Viktor Gorelov and Abdessatar Hassun, were taken to the Russian Embassy in Damascus and were healthy, the foreign ministry said.
The Italian, Mario Belluomo, was to be delivered to Italian representatives.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.