Iraq said Tuesday it is still working to find kidnapped Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov, a day after a video of her was released as the first public proof of life since her abduction.
Israeli authorities revealed in July that Tsurkov had been kidnapped, blaming Iran-backed group Kataib Hezbollah, after she had gone missing in Iraq in late March.
On Monday, Iraqi channel Al Rabiaa TV aired the first hostage video of Tsurkov known to the public since her kidnapping.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the footage or determine whether her statement was coerced.
“The security services are still following the case of the disappearance of the Russian citizen in Baghdad and are sparing no effort to find any leads leading to the kidnapped person,” said Husham al-Rikabi, a communications adviser to Iraq’s prime minister.
“We hope soon [to find] leads or evidence that will lead the competent authorities to her,” he told AFP.
Tsurkov, a 37-year-old doctoral student whose work focuses on the Middle East and specifically Syria and Iraq, was abducted while doing research for her doctorate at Princeton. She likely entered the country on her Russian passport since Israel and Iraq do not have diplomatic relations.
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went public about Tsurkov’s kidnapping in July, the Iraqi government announced it had launched an investigation into the matter but has not reported any results.
In the video, Tsurkov mentioned the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip which has been raging since Palestinian terrorists massacred some 1,200 Israelis in an October 7 attack.
Tsurkov said she had been detained for more than seven months, without identifying her captors or the location where she is held. She “admits” to having been in Iraq as a Western spy and agitator.
“The statement was clearly coerced, but we do note that she appears as well as can be expected,” her sister Emma Tsurkov said in a post on X. “The release of this video is an important step in the effort to bring her back to us.”
A spokesperson for Tsurkov’s family earlier said it was “encouraging to see this proof of life video, that was clearly filmed in recent weeks.”
Netanyahu has said Israel holds Iraq accountable for Tsurkov’s safety and fate, and accused Kataeb Hezbollah of holding her, but the pro-Iran armed faction has implied it was not involved in her disappearance.
Kataeb Hezbollah is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, made up of dozens of mostly Shiite militias that were integrated into Iraqi security forces in recent years.