Moscow has helped to release a US citizen held captive in Syria after US President Barack Obama personally asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to search for Americans in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry says. “Some time ago, US President Barack Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a personal request for assistance in the search for US citizens who could be in Syrian territory,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Friday. “As a result of this work, it was found out that one of them — Kevin [Patrick] Dawes — was being held under arrest for illegal entry into the country and other offenses. In response to our appeal, the Syrian authorities have found it possible to show clemency and release the American on humanitarian grounds,” she further said, adding that Moscow hoped Washington appreciated the gesture of the Syrian government in Damascus. Thirty-three-year-old Dawes, described by the FBI as a freelance photographer, was detained in Syria in late 2012 after crossing into the war-ravaged country from Turkey. After months of negotiations, the Syrian government handed him over to Russian authorities present in Syria. According to the Russian ministry, Dawes was then flown to Moscow on April 1 and turned over to the US embassy there. Earlier on Friday, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner appreciated Russia’s role in Dawes' freedom, saying, “We are appreciative of efforts on the part of the Russian government that it undertook on behalf of this US citizen.” He added that Washington was in “direct periodic contact” with Damascus regarding consular issues in general and American citizens detained in Syria. About a year prior to his arrest in Syria, Dawes was in the middle of another war zone. In 2011, he initially went to Libya as a medical aid worker but then took up arms and joined a ragtag militia group battling forces loyal to then-leader Moammar Gadhafi.