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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Released U.S. Hostage Meets With North Caucasus Leader

NAZRAN, Russia - Three days after ending his captivity in Chechnya, U.S. aid worker Kenneth Gluck met Tuesday with a North Caucasus leader and avoided reporters' questions about the hazy circumstances of his abduction.

Russian military and security officials flew Gluck out of Chechnya Monday and he spent the night in the compound of the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders in Nazran. He shared a bottle of champagne with his colleagues and spoke on the telephone with family members and friends.

On Tuesday, he met with Ruslan Aushev, the leader of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, which neighbors Chechnya. Keeping his eyes trained on the ground, he refused to answer any questions from a crowd of journalists except one: how he was feeling.

"I'm well and alive and I'm glad to be with my friends," he said before returning to the aid group's gated compound.

Aushev said that Gluck told him that his captors had treated him politely and fed him well.

"In spite of a month of captivity, Gluck looked very cheerful and he made jokes," Aushev was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Aushev added that Gluck wanted to continue his aid work in Ingushetia, and that he wanted to stay in Nazran for another two or three days.

Gluck is head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in the North Caucasus region, where the group delivers medical help to refugees and other victims of unrest. He was abducted Jan. 9, when gunmen forced his aid convoy to stop near Stariye Atagi, in the southern foothills of Chechnya.

Russian security officials said he was being held by rebels led by a warlord called Yakub. However, in contrast to previous kidnapping cases in the region, no demands for ransom or other conditions for his release were ever made public.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said its agents released Gluck unharmed and without paying ransom in a special operation late Saturday. The FSB is now leading the Russian campaign against Chechen rebels, which is in its 16th month.

Chechens and some Russian media alleged that Gluck, a New York City native, had actually been abducted by forces tied with Russian security services. They argue that the abduction could have been punishment for his public accusations of Russian military maltreatment of civilians, or that it could have been meant to persuade European observers that Moscow's military campaign was justified.

Gluck's kidnapping occurred on the eve of a visit to Chechnya by a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The assembly had suspended Russia's voting rights a year ago because of alleged abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya, but restored Russia's vote after the delegation visit.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Monday welcomed the news of Gluck's release, although he cautioned there was concern about the circumstances of the abduction.

"We're seeking more information about the circumstances surrounding his release. We certainly appreciate the high level of attention that the Russian government has given to this case," Boucher said.

Hundreds of people - foreign aid workers, journalists, Russian soldiers and local residents - have been kidnapped by armed bands for ransom in Chechnya in recent years. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, about 700 people are currently held captive.