Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine yesterday said they are holding a US journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified “bad activities.”
Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist for Vice News, has not been seen since early on Tuesday.
He has been covering the crisis in Ukraine for weeks and was reporting about groups of masked gunmen seizing government buildings in one eastern Ukrainian city after another.
Pro-Russia insurgents who have been occupying police stations and other public buildings in eastern Ukraine for more than a week are defying the accords that Russia and Ukraine signed last week that urged all parties in Ukraine to lay down their arms and vacate the public offices.
Members of the nationalist Right Sector movement have also been occupying two buildings in the capital, Kiev, for months, but authorities have said the priority is to get the gunmen in eastern Ukraine to vacate the buildings they hold.
Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern city of Slovyansk, yesterday confirmed that Ostrovsky was being held at the local branch of the Ukrainian security service that they seized more than a week ago.
“He’s with us. He’s fine,” Khorosheva said.
When asked why Ostrovsky was held captive, Khorosheva said he is “suspected of bad activities,” which she refused to explain.
In Washington, US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US authorities are “deeply concerned” about Ostrovsky’s detention, which she said violated the agreement between Russia and Ukraine reached last week.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that Russia would respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine, as they were in South Ossetia in 2008, which led to war with Georgia.
“If we are attacked, we would certainly respond,” he told state-controlled RT television in an interview. “If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law.”
Lavrov did not elaborate further on what the response would entail, but the reference to Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia strongly hints at the possibility of military action.