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'Because I work for RT': Graham Phillips deported from Ukraine

Published time: July 25, 2014 17:53
Edited time: September 06, 2014 19:37

Graham Phillips (Photo from www.facebook.com/grahamwphillips)

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Graham Phillips, an RT contributor covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine, has been deported to Poland, following his arrest at Donetsk airport on Tuesday night.

Phillips, who was previously detained by Ukrainian forces for two days in May, will not be allowed to re-enter the country for three years, Russian agency RIA and local media reported. The SBU said that the official reason for the deportation was the threat Phillips presented to "state security, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine.

Despite cautions from the channel that the area was too dangerous to work in, the 35-year-old journalist decided to film fire exchanges between government forces and militants just a few hundred meters away from the airport in Donetsk alongside a stringer for ANSA News, Vadim Aksyonov. The airport building, occupied by anti-Kiev forces since the start of the conflict, has been a flashpoint as government forces have attempted to re-take control of the key eastern Ukrainian city.

Aksyonov, who was released on Thursday, said that pro-Kiev troops seized the two of them, placed bags on their heads, before bundling them into a car and dumping them in a prison cell. The Ukrainian journalist said that both he and Phillips were beaten and tortured by security agents.

RT had conducted a media campaign to pressure the Ukrainian and UK authorities into negotiating Phillips’ release.

With seven journalists killed since hostilities broke out in the east of the country, Ukraine is the deadliest workplace for journalists this year, according to UN statistics.

Dozens of journalists have also been detained by both sides, including CNN stringer Anton Skiba, who was arrested in militant-controlled Donetsk this week, and remains in custody.

“I am seriously concerned about the continuing abduction and disappearance of members of the media. This practice of intimidation continues to create an environment of fear for journalists and media workers,” OSCE Representative of Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said on Friday.

“This trend has to change and it has to change immediately.”