317-day ordeal ends for UNHCR hostage in Northern Caucasus

Press Releases, 12 December 1998

The head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in North Ossetia was freed today after spending 317 days in captivity.

UNHCR said Cochetel, 37, was released during the night of 11-12 December. He is en route for Moscow from where he will fly to France to be reunited with his family. UNHCR said Cochetel was exhausted but in good spirits.

Masked gunmen abducted Cochetel on January 29th from his residence in North Ossetia's capital Vladikavkaz.

Cochetel's release comes just two weeks after his wife Florence travelled to Moscow to make another plea to the Russian authorities to do more to secure his release.

Ogata said she was grateful to the Russian Federation and North Ossetian officials for their efforts obtain Cochetel's liberation. "I am delighted for Vincent and his family, especially in this holiday period, and am enormously relieved. I hope Vincent's long nightmare will focus the world's attention on the enormous risks humanitarian workers face daily in their work around the globe", she said.