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Talks on Russian captive ongoing with Taliban

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The wife of a Russian pilot who has been held by the Taliban for more than six months said Friday she's been told negotiations for his release are ongoing.

A senior Taliban official also told The Associated Press that a former Russian ambassador to Afghanistan has been in contact with the religious movement in the matter. Pavel Petrenko was among 10 foreign civilians captured after their cargo helicopter made an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan in April. Eight Turks, a Kyrgyz and an Afghan translator also were seized. The Turks were later released.

Petrenko's wife, Halyna, said by telephone from her home in Sumy, Ukraine, that Russian officials say release talks continue. The Taliban official spoke on condition of anonymity but has proved reliable in the past. He said the former Russian ambassador, Zamir Kabulov, had met with Taliban representatives in Qatar.

The Taliban briefly opened an office in Qatar in June, but closed it after a dispute arose over the use of the Taliban flag and the name Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. An infuriated Afghan President Hamid Karzai said it was tantamount to the Taliban declaring their movement a government-in-exile.

The Taliban official said talks about Petrenko take place at a different office, and with the permission of Qatari authorities. The Taliban-Russia contact comes despite criticism within Taliban that former members of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed communist regime are in Karzai's government. Many in the Taliban leadership fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, when more than 80,000 of its soldiers entered the country.

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