WASHINGTON (AP) — A video broadcast on an Iraqi television station and circulated on pro-Iranian social media Monday purported to show an Israeli-Russian researcher who was allegedly kidnapped in Iraq, the first sign of life since her disappearance nearly eight months ago.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Tsurkov. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this year that she was being held by the powerful Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataeb Hezbollah.
The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the video released Monday. In it, Tsurkov speaks in Hebrew with Arabic subtitles, calling for efforts to secure her release and for an end to the war in Gaza, indicating the video was made after the surprise Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7.
Videos of prisoners meant to document a proof-of-life often include statements coerced by captors or statements otherwise made under duress.
A spokesperson for Tsurkov’s family said in a statement: “It is encouraging to see this proof of life video, that was clearly filmed in recent weeks. While we can’t comment on what Elizabeth is saying, we appreciate that this is an important step in the process to bring her home to her family.”
Tsurkov, a 37-year-old doctoral student whose work focuses on the Middle East and specifically Syria and Iraq, disappeared in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, in March while doing research for her doctorate at Princeton University. She had entered the country on her Russian passport since Israel and Iraq do not have diplomatic relations.
Days after her disappearance, a local website reported that Iraqi authorities had detained an Iranian citizen in connection with her kidnapping. It said that Tsurkov was kidnapped from Baghdad’s central neighborhood of Karradah and that the Iranian Embassy in the Iraqi capital was pressing for the man’s release and to have him deported to Iran.
After Netanyahu went public about Tsurkov’s kidnapping in July, the Iraqi government announcement it had launched an investigation into the matter but has not reported any results.
Sewell reported from Beirut.