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Journalist captured in E. Ukraine released, RT stringer remains in detention

Published time: July 24, 2014 14:34
Edited time: July 25, 2014 06:57

Graham Phillips (Photo from grahamwphillips.com)

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A journalist released from the ANNA news agency, who was captured along with RT contributor Graham Phillips, told RT that they were abducted by the Ukrainian army and tortured and beaten. Phillips’ fate remains unknown.

The RT stringer was among 4 people taken hostage in besieged Ukraine’s Donetsk – report

ANNA news agency cameraman, Vadim Aksyonov, has been released while RT contributor Graham Phillips, a UK national, is being held captive, ANNA news told RT.

According to the ANNA news press service, Aksyonov who was released about 3 hours ago is in “terrible state” as he hasn’t slept for a day and was tortured.

The journalist told RT how he and his colleague – RT contributor Graham Phillips - were detained.

“We were captured in [Donetsk] airport. Graham [Phillips] ran to the parking lot, I ran after him. Then we were taken by people with guns.I saw the official army insignia before they put bags on our heads,” Aksyonov told RT.

When they were taken to the cells near a checkpoint, they were tortured and beaten, he added.

“At first we were kept together, then separately. I heard him [Phillips] screaming from pain and he heard me screaming, too,” he told RT.

According to Aksyonov, their captors then took them to another location. He overheard that Phillips was dropped in the city of Krasnoarmeisk, in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine.

Aksyonov thinks that Graham Philips might be taken to either Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, or Zaporizhie, a city in southern Ukraine which borders on the Donetsk Region, or to the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.

The agency still hasn’t reveal the fate of two other hostages - an employee of the press service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and possibly an acquaintance of Phillips, who accompanied the journalist to the airport.

Phillips has been reporting about the developments in Ukraine for several months now. According to research from Brandwatch social networks monitor, he has become the most popular author in Twitter reporting on the situation in Ukraine.

It is not the first time the RT contributor has been arrested. He was detained once at a checkpoint in Mariupol and held captive by Kiev military for over 36 hours in May.

CNN stringer 'abducted'

CNN has called for the release of a local producer, who worked with its crew in eastern Ukraine, who they claim has been abducted by anti-Kiev militants.

The US news channel says that officials from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) publicly arrested Anton Skiba two days ago, on charges of terrorism and being a government intelligence agent. CNN attempted direct negotiations with DPR officials in the interim, before making a public appeal.

He has not been heard from since, apart from a brief phone call, which CNN says was cut off.

"I strongly condemn this incident. Journalists must not become targets just for fulfilling their professional duties," declared Dunja Mijatovic, the representative for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in response to the incident.

The United Nations, Reporters without Borders and other groups have also expressed alarm over the escalating danger for journalists in the country.

"The climate for press freedom in the volatile eastern Ukraine has deteriorated further," said the Committee to Protect Journalists, which pointed out that up to ten foreign journalists have been detained at least for a short period over the past week.

Seven journalists have also been killed while covering the unrest in eastern Ukraine - making it the deadliest country for journalists this year, according to UN statistics.

In June, a Russian cameraman from Channel One TV, Anatoly Klyan, was shot by Kiev forces in Donetsk. Also in June, Rossiya TV journalist Igor Kornelyuk and his colleague, sound engineer Anton Voloshin, were killed in shelling near Lugansk.

In May, Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter Andrey Mironov were killed when they were caught in a mortar attack close to the village of Andreevka, a couple of kilometers from Slavyansk.

Russian journalists have been captured by Kiev’s forces throughout the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In June, journalists from Russia's Zvezda TV channel spent two days in captivity, after being detained by the Ukrainian National Guard.

In May, two LifeNews journalists were taken hostage for two days by the National Guard, prompting an online #SaveOurGuys campaign.