A British journalist working for the TV channel Russia Today, who had not been seen since his detention by the Ukrainian government on Tuesday, has said he is "free and fine" after being released, theguardian reports.
Graham Phillips, a blogger hired on a freelance basis by the Kremlin-funded channel, gained notoriety during the conflict in the east for his gonzo-style subjective reports and his sharp online criticism of the Maidan protests and the new Ukrainian government, declaring several times that he believes the country "does not exist" any more.
Graham PhillipsPhillips, 35, tweeted to his nearly 11,000 followers that he had been released from custody, and revealed he was not facing any criminal charges or deportation threat following his arrest. He was arrested at a checkpoint near the flashpoint city of Mariupol on Tuesday and was transferred to Zaporozhye where he spent the night in detention, according to RT.
He said: "All my work in order, no charges, no deportation, no one laid a hand on me in anger, Ukrainian authorities treated me fairly. All ok".
His reports, often from the centre of armed clashes, have become popular among pro-Kremlin bloggers and hated by pro-Ukrainian internet users, many of whom Phillips claims have threatened him. He has been accused of reporting wildly inaccurate claims as fact.
Ukrainian authorities have begun screening Russian journalists at entrance points to the country and many have been denied entry. At the weekend, two journalists from the Russian internet channel LifeNews Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko were also detained in the east of the country and taken to Kiev. LifeNews has close links to the Kremlin.
Journalists Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko. Image from www.lifenews.ruUkrainian media reported that the pair were helping the insurgents. A video showing the men – their hands tied behind their backs and bags on their heads – purported to show they were carrying portable anti-aircraft missiles in their car. The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media has called on Kiev to release the pair immediately.
In a short video message released on Tuesday, cameraman Marat Saichenko admitted that the pair had entered Ukraine on the pretence they were going to a concert, and not as journalists. Ashot Gabrelyanov, the general director of LifeNews, tweeted that the Ukrainian security services were "terrorists" and "acting like al-Qaida".
Earlier in the conflict, the separatist militias operating in eastern Ukraine detained a number of Ukrainian and western journalists. Simon Ostrovsky, a reporter for the internet channel Vice News, who was beaten and held in a cellar for several days in the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk. He was eventually released, though it is believed that many locals are still being held hostage in the area.