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Hamas releases two Russian hostages after Kremlin negotiations

Hamas has released two Russian-Israeli dual nationals and handed them over to the Red Cross under a separate agreement negotiated between Hamas and the Kremlin.

Elena Trufanova, 50, and her mother Irina Tatti, 73, were released on Wednesday afternoon “in response to the efforts of the Russian President”, according to a statement by Hamas.

That brings to three the number of hostages with Russian citizenship who have been released since Sunday.

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Released hostages Irina Tatti and Elena Trufanova, alongside the still captive Alexander Trufanov and Vitaly Trufanov, who was killed
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Released hostages Irina Tatti and Elena Trufanova, alongside the still captive Alexander Trufanov and Vitaly Trufanov, who was killed

Ms Trufanova’s sister, Maria Leizerovich, told Sky News from Moscow that she was “overwhelmed” by the news, but that her fight was not over until Ms Trufanova’s son Alexander (Sasha) and his Israeli fiance Sapir Cohen were also released.

The family were kidnapped from Ms Trufanova’s home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on 7 October. Her husband Vitaly was killed in the attack.

The first sign Ms Leizerovich had that her sister was alive came almost three weeks later, when Ms Trufanova appeared in a hostage video released by Hamas.

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“It was a great joy for us when we saw her there, no matter how crazy that sounds”, Ms Leizerovich told Sky News.

“It gave us hope that all our remaining relatives were also alive”.

Eight of the roughly 240 hostages originally taken by Hamas were Russian-Israeli dual nationals.

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Hamas says 3 hostages killed in Gaza

Mikhail and Maria Leizerovich, whose three family members are in Hamas captivity
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Mikhail and Maria Leizerovich, whose three family members are in Hamas captivity

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On Sunday, 25-year-old Roni Krivoi was the first to be released and was reunited with his parents at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

In video of that reunion released by the Israeli government, he appeared to be physically in good health.

Mr Krivoi’s aunt told Israeli radio that he had managed to escape his captors for four days when the building he was in was bombed, but that he was recaptured by Gazans and returned to Hamas.

Mr Krivoi had been working at the Nova music festival when he was taken hostage, and is the first adult male with Israeli citizenship to have been released so far by Hamas.

At a press conference in Moscow, relatives of the Russian-Israeli hostages said they had written a letter to Vladimir Putin asking for his help.

“Of course we wrote to Putin”, said Oxana Lobanova, whose son Alexander was kidnapped. “And of course we hope that Vladimir Vladimirovich will influence the situation. He stands strong for his citizens”.

Oxana Lobanov (L), mother of hostage Alexander
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Oxana Lobanov (L), mother of hostage Alexander

Evgenia Kozlova, mother of Andrei
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Evgenia Kozlova, mother of Andrei

Evgenia Kozlova’s son Andrei was working as a security guard at the Nova festival.

“No one knows if he is alive now,” she said. “We don’t know where is he, in what conditions he’s being kept. We don’t know what he eats or if he sees the sun.

“We can only guess, based on the hostages who’ve already been realised, what is happening to him and it does not reassure us.”

In late October, a senior Hamas delegation travelled to Moscow for talks with Russian officials.

According to the foreign ministry, the talks focused on the immediate release of foreign hostages and the evacuation of Russian and other foreign citizens from the Gaza Strip.

One month later it would appear that deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s dealings with Hamas are beginning to bear fruit.

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