According to reports from journalists in the area, confirmed by the pro-Russian “mayor” of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, American reporter Simon Ostrovsky and British cameraman Frederick Paxton of Vice magazine have been taken hostage by separatist forces. The magazine said in a statement that it is “aware of the situation and is in contact with the US State Department and other appropriate government authorities.”
(Confusingly, the mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, also claimed to be taking a call in the middle of his press conference from Ostrovsky’s parents, saying their son was fine and still reporting from the area.)
Ostrovsky, a veteran reporter for a number of outlets, had been filing regular video reports from the region for Vice, including the one above on Ukrainian forces’ botched attempts to retake Slovyansk, which was posted on Sunday.
This just the latest is a series of attacks on the press by pro-Russian forces in the area, including the arrest of journalist and activist Irma Krat. Paxton himself was beaten by a pro-Russian crowd last week. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple cases of journalists being “assaulted, detained, or obstructed from reporting” in Russian-controlled Crimea.
Slovyansk has been on the front lines of tensions between the two sides of the conflict. Ukrainian special forces and pro-Russian militia exchanged fire there last week, killing one Ukrainian officer. On Sunday three pro-Russian activists were killed at a skirmish near a checkpoint there.
News of Ovstrovsky’s detention also comes as Vice President Joe Biden is in Kiev, in his familiar role as reassurer, pleding American support and telling Ukrainians that “no nation has the right to simply grab land from another.”