Once in eastern Ukraine beware: a plain text message or a careless phone call may turn out disastrous.
Bloomberg has recently published a story of their Russian correspondent who worked on the ground in the area and got detained at a Ukrainian checkpoint on his way back home. The text that 31 year-old Stepan Kravchenko sent to his father gave the game away:
“Talked to Borodai at night,” it read, referring to the recent interview with the rebel leader. This coupled with the fact of being Russian seemed to be sufficient evidence for the Ukrainian troops to detain, blindfold and interrogate. Videos of separatists’ press conferences on Stepan’s iPad proved the guilt still further.
Interestingly, the captors were military intelligence officers from the Dnepr battalion, funded by Dnepropetrovsk governor and tycoon Igor Kolomoisky.
What followed was a series of of punches and a lengthy trip across vast yellow rye fields lying on the Russia-Ukrainian border, the journalist recalls. What a tragedy it could have been, but for a few words Stepan managed to whisper to the driver before being captured, and the Bloomberg office pulling its strings in the US administration. The latter swiftly played a part, as after a couple of hours a Ukrainian colonel came up to the journalist, ordering the captors to free him and even apologize.
Earlier, in May 2014 the detention of Russian Life News journalists reportedly on terrorism charges made headlines globally . The incident sparked large-scale journalists’ rights debate back then.
In June 2014 two more Russian journalists, Zvezda TV and radio company reporters, were held in captivity for three days, sustaining multiple bruises and stress before they were finally flown to Moscow.