Separatists confirm hostage-taking of American-Israeli journalist Simon Ostrovsky


Pro-Russian separatists from Ukraine confirmed that they are holding American-Israeli journalist Simon Ostrovsky hostage.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the separatist head of the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk, told reporters on Wednesday evening that Ostrovsky had been detained since Tuesday for reporting false information, Reuters reported. Ponomaryov has appointed himself “mayor” of the town.

Ostrovsky has been covering the conflict in Ukraine in recent months for the VICE News website.

In a statement, the website said, “VICE News is aware of the situation and is in contact with the US State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure the safety and security of our friend and colleague, Simon Ostrovsky.”

Separatist gunmen detained Ostrovsky on Monday night along with four other reporters who since have been released. He reportedly is one of 16 people kidnapped in Sloviansk over the past two weeks. Some were released and others were found dead, according to the Kyiv Post.

Without mentioning his name, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday evening expressed on behalf of the department “deep concern about the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen journalist in Slovyansk, Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists. We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation. We likewise condemn the taking of any hostages, including journalists in eastern Ukraine. We call for their immediate release and call on Russia to use its influence to ensure they’re freed immediately.”

Ukraine has seen violent clashes between pro-Russian protesters and other groups since the ousting in February of the government of President Viktor Yanukovych in a revolution that erupted over his perceived pro-Russian policies. Ukraine’s interim government has announced new elections scheduled for next month.

U.S. journalist held by east Ukraine militants


Separatists in Ukraine said they were holding an American-Israeli journalist.

Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter for Vice News, is now working for pro-Russian, secessionist militia in the town of Sloviansk, separatists leader Vyacheslav Ponomarev told reporters on Tuesday, the Russian news site gazeta.ru reported.

“Nobody abducted [him], nobody holds [him] hostage, he is now with us,”  Ponomarev was quoted as saying at a news conference that was held amid reports that Ostrovsky had been kidnapped. Ponomarev added that Ostrovsky was now “working, preparing materials.”

Ponomarev said Ostrovsky had Israeli and American passports. A spokesperson for the Vice news channel said in a statement that their organization was aware of the situation and currently in contact with the U.S. State Department, Business Insider reported.

Osktrovsky recently wrote on Twitter that Ponomarev had threatened him.

“Sloviansk pro-Russia ‘mayor’ threatens to throw journalist out for ‘provocative’ question about former mayor being held under guard,” Ostrovsky wrote Monday. His following message — his last from before  Ponomarev’s announcement about Ostrovsky — was: “Now he’s not letting reporters leave the press conference: ‘you’ll go as you came in. In a group.’ That’s one way to guarantee coverage.”

Ukraine has seen violent clashes between pro-Russian protesters and other groups since the ousting in February of the government of former president Viktor Yanukovych in a revolution which erupted over his perceived pro-Russian policies. Ukraine’s interim government has announced new elections scheduled for next month.

On Monday, pro-Russian separatists said their newly-launched television station in Sloviansk would deal “a powerful blow to the biblical matrix and zombie Zionists,” the Ukrainian news site tvplus.dn.ua reported Monday.

Since the revolution erupted in November, Ukraine, which has relatively low levels of anti-Semitic violence, has seen several serious attacks including a stabbing and the attempted torching of two synagogues, most recently last week in Nikolayev.

The Ukrainian government and Russian government officials, as well as their supporters in Ukraine, have exchanged allegations of anti-Semitism.