RT contributing journalist Graham Phillips said he has been detained by the National Guard at a check point in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. Following his phone call RT lost connection with the British journalist while UK said ready to provide assistance.
RT has lost connection with the it’s contributing journalist Graham Phillips who was detained at a check point in Mariupol earlier on Tuesday.
"Our stringer Graham Phillips was arrested at a checkpoint by people who, according to him, when we last spoke, introduced themselves as the National Guard and asked for his papers. After this, the connection with the journalist was lost, we still cannot get in touch with Graham, we are extremely worried what could happen to him. It is even more worrying after the events, which, as we all saw happened to the LifeNews TV correspondents” said Alexey Kuznetsov, deputy head of RT’s English department.
“I’m sitting at a blockade post in a portacabin. The dialogue is quite interrogation oriented,” Phillips earlier told RT in a phone call.
He added that he was asked if he is a spy, while his car was searched and his laptop confiscated. However, he noted that he is being treated well.
“At the moment I’m with the Ukrainian forces … near Mariupol. I’ve been here for over two hours and I’ve been described, my status, as being detained in terms of I can’t leave. I would also say I’m being treated OK by them. I believe that someone is coming. They’ve done checks on my documentation. They found my reports and clips I’ve done and they’re now looking through them asking me my position on things, asking if I’m a spy, and asking me quite thorough questions. They’ve checked all my documentation and photos, my laptop and the car – so that’s who I’m with at the moment.”
He also said he has been asked about separatism and his working arrangement with RT.
“I’ve been describing my position on Crimea. I did believe – and I did say and I did state and I stand by position – that the Crimea referendum was legitimate. I do believe referendums held here have a legitimacy, and I had an exchange one day that I do believe the Kiev government isn’t legal and isn’t democratic. I don’t support this current situation in the east of Ukraine or the Donetsk Republic, as it’s now been named. I believe the position of President Turchinov and [PM] Yatsenyuk – not coming here to speak to people, but using military forces to launch assaults against them – is completely wrong.”
During the phone conversation Phillips said he had explained to his captives that while working for RT he “maintains complete objectivity and neutrality as a correspondent.”
“I present the facts as I see them and exactly as today, which is to say they’re treating me OK. They’ve taken my bulletproof jacket and my helmet, but on the other hand they haven’t in any way inflicted any form of injury or any actions on my person.”
UK Foreign Office ready to provide consular assistance
The UK Foreign Office, upon being contacted by RT, said it is looking into Phillip’s detention and "stand ready to provide consular assistance."
The British national's previous record of reporting for RT has already backfired on him. Two weeks ago Ukrainian radicals put a bounty out on Phillips. The Right Sector reportedly offered $10,000 for the capture of “the Russian spy.”
On Monday, pro-Kiev activists again called to “immediately detain and deport” Phillips, whom they believe is “cooperating with terrorists,” according to a message posted on EuroMaidan Kharkov's Facebook page.
The message read that Phillips “daily works for terrorists, he photographs and publishes the location of Ukrainian troops, spreads disinformation and Putin’s propaganda in the media. He must be immediately detained by Ukrainian forces and deported from Ukraine.” The message also said that the order comes from “EuroMaidan leaders.”
Russia slams 'curbing activities of unwanted journalists' in Ukraine
In Moscow, Kiev was slammed over Phillips’ detention. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights labeled it as the obstruction of media that doesn’t support the coup-appointed authorities’ policy.
"This is another step de facto made by Ukrainian authorities to curb the activities of unwanted journalists”said Konstantin Dolgov. “The journalists who work professionally and show an objective picture, the ugly side of the outrages made by ultranationalists, the results of [Kiev’s] punitive operation in the southeast.”
Dolgov added that Phillips was detained following the “unlawful seizure, detention of Russian journalists” adding that Moscow is continuing to work for their speedy release.
He stressed that Kiev “continues [to hold] its vicious line” and has once again proved that the Ukrainian authorities are “not going to fulfill their international obligations concerning freedom of speech.”
The media freedom situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. On Sunday, two Russian LifeNews journalists, Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, were captured by Ukrainian troops, presumably near Kramatorsk in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The journalists were being investigated on the charges of “aiding the terrorist groups,” said Deputy Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (SNBO) on Monday.
The OSCE urged Kiev authorities to release the Russian journalists saying that intimidation and obstruction of media is “unacceptable.”
Previous week, RT's Ruptly video journalists came under fire from two APCs as their car was targeted near the city of Kramatorsk. The journalists were en route to the town of Dmitrovka, some 30 kilometers from Slavyansk.