Two Russians and an Italian national were abducted on December 17 near the western Syrian port city of Latakia as they were travelling along the Tartus-Homs highway.

“A diplomatic source in Moscow told Kommersant that the sum at the issue is 50 million Syrian pounds (over $700,000),” the daily said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a statement identifying the Russians as V. Gorelov and Abdessattar Khassun, who also holds a Syrian passport, and confirmed that Italian Mario Belluomo was abducted with them.

All three work for the Hmisho steel company’s plant near Homs, the statement confirms, adding that the company had received a telephone demand from unidentified individuals for payment as a condition for their release.

According to Kommersant, the hostages were abducted by one of the Syrian opposition groups.

On Wednesday, Haitham al-Maleh, a prominent leader of the Syrian opposition abroad, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that Russians are a “legitimate” target for Syrian militants as Russia supports President Bashar al-Assad.