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VICE News' Simon Ostrovsky remains captive in Ukraine

By George Arthur     Apr 22, 2014 in World
VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky remains in captivity under the order of "People's mayor" Vyacheslav Ponomare in Sloviansk, Eastern Ukraine.
Simon Ostrovsky’s most recent video dispatch documenting the crisis in Ukraine – the 28th in the Russian Roulette series produced by VICE News – took place in the east Ukraine town of Sloviansk, which, as Ostrovsky’s piece so clearly documents, is under the control of pro-Russia groups.
Last night (April 21st), on orders from the unofficial and thusly named “People’s mayor” of Sloviansk, Ostrovsky was taken hostage – he hasn’t been heard from since. While Twitter updates from a controversial reporter named Graham Phillips suggest that “Simon is ok”, Phillips’ final update on April 22nd read: “Ok, seems no chance of release tonight, mayor tells me they are expecting attack on building, no one leaves.”
Despite being asked by journalist Oliver Bullough to clarify whether or not Phillips himself had been allowed to leave, the question (as of this writing) has gone unanswered. (Phillips had been with the self-proclaimed mayor earlier, but did not see Ostrovsky.)
Although VICE News has been in contact with the US State Department, it is unclear at this point what is being done to secure the safe release of Ostrovsky. Official VICE News updates on the status of Ostrovsky will be posted here.
The revealing and provocative reports produced by Ostrovsky since the first Russian Roulette dispatch debuted on March 4th have been nothing short of spectacular, offering first-hand accounts of how people throughout the country have and are reacting to pro-Russian insurrection.
Said one commenter named Kyle on the VICE News update page:
“I had never seen this type of journalism (…) non-biased and unemotional deliverance of the information. Of course there were times when he speculated, but he made it clear that it was speculation. I have grown to admire Simon Ostrovsky and also the men behind the camera. Not to discount any sides who are currently fighting for what they believe in, but it takes a large amount of courage to get involved when you have nothing to gain. I don't wear hats, but if I did it would go off to Simon and the crew for showing me, and the world what real journalism is.”
In his latest report, which was shot in the town whose fake mayor would later detain him, Ostrovsky and the VICE News team captured footage of Ukrainian forces submitting to pro-Russian requests to surrender the firing pins of their weapons, as well as testimony from apparent locals who spoke in support of Russian occupation.
During the commotion of the exchange between pro-Russian plain clothed Ukrainians and the Ukrainian army, Ostrovsky interviews a solider wearing a wry and unimpressed grin, who is obviously aware of the contradiction that his columns command had been given earlier, noting that he and his comrades were originally sent on some sort of pseudo-training exercise “to save our borders.”
In the end and as noted, the column eventually submits to pro-Russian requests to disarm.
As unarmed Ukrainian soldiers make their way past a human barricade that breaks rank only when the army has been metaphorically neutered, and which swallows shut as soon as the soldiers pass down the road they were on, one can't help but wonder what happened later.
Fast forward a few days and we’re in the present, where instead of following that story through the work of Ostrovsky, we're left worrying about him.
Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonOstrovsky and again, get the latest at VICE News.
[Update 23/04/2014: Phillips took to Twitter this morning (April 23rd) but after a few notes went quiet, citing requests from friends of Ostrovsky. Mashable editor Brian Ries recently published an ominous story on the situation that is worth reading- it includes updated information from those close to the "mayor" of Sloviansk.]
[Update 24/04/2014: According to reports on Twitter, Simon has been freed. VICE has also confirmed this great news...]
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