On Wednesday, pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine released a U.S. reporter held captive who had been working in the region for Vice News. The self-declared separatist mayor in Slaviansk said that they had originally detained him because he was reporting false information and that it was “destabilizing for us.” The U.S. State Department and other government agencies had been working to release Simon Ostrovsky since Russian separatists confirmed on Wednesday that they had him in custody.
Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky is free after having been detained for several days in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk, the company announced on Thursday.
“VICE News is delighted to confirm that our colleague and friend Simon Ostrovsky has been safely released and is in good health,” Vice News spokesman Jake Goldman said in a statement. “We would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. Out of respect for Simon and his family’s privacy, we have no further statement at this time.”
Ostrovsky was detained on Tuesday by pro-Russian insurgents, who accused Ostrovsky of being a spy. Stella Khorosheva, a spokesperson for the pro-Russian insurgents told The Associated Press on Wednesday Ostrovsky was being held because he was “suspected of bad activities.”
“(We) need to be careful because this is not the first time we’re dealing with spies,” Khorosheva said.
CBC and BBC reporters tweeted photos of Ostrovsky after he had been released. CBC’s Jean-Francois Belanger tweeted that Ostrovsky said he “was beaten, blindfolded and hands tied at first, then treated well.”
Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, told Gazeta.ru they wouldn’t be releasing Ostrovsky because they “need hostages — small change to trade with Kiev.”
It’s not clear yet what led to Ostrovsky’s release, but several foreign journalists were actively following the case on the ground, and the State Department and Israeli Foreign Ministry (Ostrovsky holds dual American and Israeli citizenship) were working to secure his release.