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RT journalist to be handed to UK consul in Kiev, SBU proceedings against him ‘over’

Published time: May 21, 2014 14:10
Edited time: May 21, 2014 17:40
Graham Phillips (Photo from grahamwphillips.com)

Graham Phillips (Photo from grahamwphillips.com)

Ukraine Security Service’ has finished proceedings against RT contributor, Graham Phillips, and he is about to be handed over to the consul of the British embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry told RT.

Almost a day after Phillips was detained at a checkpoint near Mariupol in eastern Ukraine on May 20, the British Foreign Office officially confirmed the incident and said it is “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities.”

On Tuesday it was not quite clear who were the people involved in the arrest, reports from the scene varying from National Guards to Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU).

However, on Wednesday RT managed to talk to the country’s Defense Ministry, which said the arrest had been carried out by the National Guard.

“According to our information, [Phillips] was detained at a National Guard checkpoint, which does not report to us... This journalist was then handed over to law enforcement officials for the violations he committed,”
Bogdan Senyk, deputy head of the Defense Ministry’s press service, said.

Later in the day, the National Guard also confirmed its role in the detention.

According to Senyk, Phillips was detained “because he was filming facilities which are forbidden from being filmed. And this was pointed out to him. His footage proved the violations, as we were told.”

“He gave explanations to the law enforcement officials – the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) – as to why and how he was filming those military facilities,” he added.

The proceedings against Phillips are currently concluded and “he will be – or might have been already handed – to the [British] consul,” Senyk said.

The press-service of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also said it’s the country’s Security Service (the SBU), which should be contacted about the whereabouts of Graham Phillips.

“Foreign citizens on Ukrainian territory are in the SBU’s competence. Especially, if those issues concern somebody going missing,” the press-service told RT.

However, the SBU refused to comment on the fate of the journalist when contacted by RT.

The whereabouts of the British journalist, who has contributed to RT reports from the east of Ukraine, have been causing growing concern since he was detained by pro-Kiev forces.

Detainment captured on video

The video, which was taken moments before the arrest, shows armed men stopping Graham and demanding him to show his papers.

The man, who shot the footage, asked for even his voice to be deleted from the video, saying that he’s concerned for his safety.

In his last phone call with RT, soon after the arrest, 35-year-old Phillips said that his bulletproof jacket and helmet were taken, but he was generally treated “OK” by the captors.

During the “interrogation oriented” dialogue, he was asked if he is a spy and was questioned on his working arrangement with RT and his support of “separatism,” the journalist said.

After that contact was lost with Phillips as a source familiar with the issue informed that his phone as well photo and video recording equipment were confiscated.

UN Human Rights Office ‘closely watching’ incident

The UK Foreign Office only went as far as to confirm Philips’s arrest. Earlier, in correspondence with RT the office said they don’t work with third parties in such incidents.

“We are aware of the reports of the detention of the British national and are looking into them. We stand ready to provide consular assistance,” a reply by the Foreign Office said.

At the same time, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine also said that they are “closely watching the developments” around the arrest of the journalist.

“Our Mission’s Kiev office would be happy to meet with Mr. Graham Phillips upon his release,” they said.

The UN mission stressed that they are ready to cooperate with RT “in reflecting the incident in our upcoming reports as fully as possible."

RT’s management also sent an open letter to the UK media, which have mostly ignored the arrest of their colleague.

The letter outlined an impression that the Russian media is more concerned about the fate of a UK citizen than the British media or politicians are, suggesting that is a troubling sign for journalism in the UK.

The British national’s previous record of reporting for RT has already worked against him as two weeks ago Ukrainian radicals put a bounty out his Phillips.

The Right Sector movement, reportedly, offered $10,000 for the capture of Philips, whom they labeled “a Russian spy.”