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Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Is 'Bargaining Chip' in Ukraine

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • U.S. journalist Simon Ostrovsky’s current whereabouts are unknown.
    Photo: Vice News

As friends and family waited impatiently to hear from Simon Ostrovsky, the journalist kidnapped by pro-Russian insurgents Tuesday, an image of a scantily dressed woman crawling across a bed appeared on his Facebook page Wednesday, likely the work of hackers.

Also Wednesday, the self-proclaimed mayor of the Ukrainian city of Slovyansk said he would not free Ostrovsky.

"We need prisoners," Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, told Gazeta.ru on Wednesday. "We need bargaining chips. Many of our comrades are behind bars. They [the Ukrainian security forces] take them to Kiev and torture them. Now we are doing the same. Taking prisoners, that is."

Stella Khoroshego, a spokeswoman for the self-appointed authorities of Slovyansk, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Ostrovsky was "fine" and that he had been detained on suspicion of "bad activities," without elaborating on their nature.

Ponomaryov told Interfax that Ostrovsky was an informant for Ukraine's Right Sector far-right nationalist party, the news agency reported.

Ostrovsky, a journalist at Vice News and former St. Petersburg Times reporter, had been covering the crisis in Ukraine for the past weeks. He had presented a series of bold video dispatches called "Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine," in which he regularly challenged armed men with blunt questions and sharp observations.

Ostrovsky's whereabouts remain unknown. Pro-Russian insurgents denied that Ostrovsky was being held at the local state security building.

The self-appointed leaders of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk contradicted Ponomaryov and Khoroshego, denying the involvement of pro-Russian militants in the kidnapping of Ostrovsky and other journalists.

"We can neither confirm nor exclude the possibility that any foreign journalists have been kidnapped," a spokesman for Yekaterina Gubareva, the self-styled foreign minister of the Donetsk People's Republic, told The St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday. "All we can say is that we [the Donetsk People's Republic] have not done this. This could be a provocation."

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