Russian troops abduct US reporter in Ukraine, threaten to kill him (video)

VICE News’ Simon Ostrovsky, an American reporter, was abducted by Russian troops in Ukraine who grabbed Ostrovksy and his crew, threatened to kill them, and then twisted the arms of Ostrovsky and his British photographer behind their backs and led them away to be interrogated.

Ostrovksy’s camera man ran for the hills, and was able to get away with the footage of the incident, which Ostrovksy thinks helped guarantee their eventual release by the Russians.

Ostrovsky talks about how at one point the Russia soldier, who had already abducted him, claimed that his crew had weapons on them, including a knife and something else.  Which was a total lie.

russia-threaten-reporterx

The same thing happened to three Norwegian journalists with public broadcaster NRK who had their equipment confiscated by aggressive, masked armed Russian troops.

“They stood there with their masks and loaded weapons and accused us of being spies.”

The guards confiscated three PCs, all the material the team had filmed, memory sticks, a small camera, as well as bulletproof vests and helmets they had with them for their personal safety, he added….

“They stood there with their masks and loaded weapons and accused us of being spies.”

The guards confiscated three PCs, all the material the team had filmed, memory sticks, a small camera, as well as bulletproof vests and helmets they had with them for their personal safety, he added.

Not terribly subtle what Russia is hoping happens next to these journalists.

This gets to the larger issue of why the Russians are using an unmarked, undeclared occupation force in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine (this was outside of Crimea, but still in Ukraine).

russia-ukraine-hide-face-2

Why do Russian troops keep hiding their faces? The same reason anyone hides their face – so they can’t be charged with a crime.

It’s not just about plausible deniability – everyone knows these guys are Russian soldiers.  I worry about what the ulterior motive is.  Possibly the Russians think this will give them license to commit crimes, including war crimes.  License to incite violence, which they then can use as a justification for a full invasion and annexation of Ukraine.  I’m not sure.  But clearly, Russian troops are acting like, and looking like, thugs.  And the masks give them immunity from prosecution on a personal, and national level.  It’s all pretty scary.

Here’s a quick snippet. Ostrovsky’s longer 10-minute report is below.

Ostrovsky’s quite good, speaks Russian fluently.  It’s worth checking out the VICE News site, they cover human rights worldwide, with a focus on Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and more.


(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Nancy Karen Davis Brian

    You make some very good points.

  • Nancy Karen Davis Brian

    Jared, have you been reading about the Berkut or have you been there?

  • Nancy Karen Davis Brian

    I am just praying for Simon. I had been watching him and enjoying seeing the truth of what was going on in Eat Ulraine. Life is fragile and precious. I pray for Simon’s safe freedom as soon as possible. If the East factions thought this would be a good move. It is not.

  • Aimee Barfield

    No one is afraid of Putin. Do let him know that the west laughs at him.

  • Aimee Barfield

    That’s total BS Russian propaganda…everyone who opposes Russia is now a neo-Nazi, that is the Russian line at least.

  • Aimee Barfield

    It may mean you’re full of scitznoozle.

  • jay

    Agreed.

  • okie_farmer

    pink, I’m 71 years old with a PhD in international affairs from George Washington University, retired from UNESCO, I’ve been following geopolitics for 40 years. I’ve forgotten more about Russia than anyone on this board will ever know. I ended up in France because I retired here and didn’t have a place to live in US.

  • jocohen

    come to think of it.. it is perfect… both great White super power.. kill each other off ..planet of earth…

  • pink44

    So sick of people living away and unaffected by the US, acting as if you have some kind of inside scoop. You are a wee bit nutty. You dont know what these people dealt with. Exactly what makes you such an American and Russian expert? Is it that you live in France?

  • pink44

    I personally can’t stand Obama. He gets us in more trouble than he is worth. He is pigheaded as hell and extremely power-happy. But those things are exactly the reason I must agree with you, that he will surprise us. I’m guessing he won’t take to well to too much more of this russian bully crap. They may wanna stick to bullying and torturing heir own people.

  • Jared R

    MINOR CORRECTION!
    Those are Berkut that assaulted Simon and his crew. They are not Russian military—err, Russian “tourists.” After the old administration was ousted, the Berkut riot police basically returned home (the new Minister of the Interior dissolved their organization and it also just so happens most were from Crimea). They have been reassigned as “border” patrol and counter-terrorism for the new Crimean “government.” They aren’t Russian military and they have always covered their faces in balaclavas… They are notorious for kidnapping, torture, violent and racist behavior…

  • cole3244

    actually i have seen the videos and they seen suspicious to me as staged i guess that means i am not an american right.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Not staged, but certainly pre-meditated by the perpetrators. The vicitims corroborate their stories in many of the case, and especially in the cases of the Swazi and Ukrainian victims.

    You obviously haven’t seen the videos. I see sexual assualt, assault, kidnapping, among other serious felonies in these videos.

  • mereside
  • FLL

    Glad to help.

  • cole3244

    the videos look staged and not what i would consider actual violence at least to me.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Specifics? What case do you suspect is questionable?

  • nater

    Thank you for the geographical terms related to military positions, these are impossible to find in any reporting outlet.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    I’m a Gay man, raised in Alabama, that lives currently in Texas. Its not appropriate to compare either Alabama or Texas to Russia. They aren’t comparable. In both Alabama and Texas, openly LGBT candidates serve in our state legislatures as elected officials. The Mayor of the largest city in Texas is an out lesbian. An out Gay man was elected to the school board in the largest city in Alabama. When hate crimes unfortunately occur in Alabama and Texas, they are prosecuted vigorously and result in heavy penalties for the perpetrators. Its not perfect down here, but its not Russia. Unlike in Russia, Gays can and do enjoy freedom of assembly, petition, protest, speech, association, expression, press, and due process. Even in Oklahoma, which along with Mississippi is the worst in the USA, out Gay candidates have won elections to serve on powerful boards such as serving as one of 3 Oklahoma County Commissioners (Roth represented 300,000 Oklahomans on that board – and you know how powerful that commission is).

    Russia’s treatment of the Pussy Riot protesters speaks for itself. I’m willing to believe just about anything they claim Russia did to them. I’d also note that a Transgender persons (and a former member of Italy’s Parliament) was treated similarly in Sochi, so their claims appear to be valid.

    Ukrainians and Tartars are being assaulted in Crimea, for the crime of vocally supporting their country. The press is being harassed and assaulted in Crimea.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Uh, denial of claims of persecution of Pussy Riot, of Gays, and of racial/ethnic minorities is not credible.

    What about all the militia there? Why do they all have military level equipment? Are you including those people in your count? What about the Russian Navy ships that were sunk in the naval roads leading to Ukrainian Naval Ports? Were those also militia? That happened to have Russian naval ships, presumably in their back yard? Please.

    Its an invasion.

  • cole3244

    i actually think some of the supposed violence against the young gay men seems to be suspect imo.

  • okie_farmer

    I’m an expat okie living in France, that’s why the time seemed odd. Agree with your points about Russia’s homophobia, pretty much like where I came from, and most of the South.
    It’s not certain Russia “invaded”, they already had 16,000 troops in Crimea out of allowable 25,000 according to the Sevastopol treaty with Ukraine. The only confirmed troop shipment was 700 on 3 big transport planes.
    I promise you that VICE is a propaganda organ of a Western intelligence agency. Did you see that Pussy Riot dust-up? The Cassocks were extremely careful not to hit any of the girls more than brushing blows. Two film crews? wtf

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Ferd, finding an accommodation requires that there be two parties willing to negotiate. And that both parties can be trusted to negotiate in good faith. I don’t see Putin as being willing to negotiate or being trustworthy to keep his promises.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    The Russian oppression of Gay people is real. The Russian invasion of Crimea is real. I question whether you are really an American. Odd time to be posting.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    NATO will be in Ukraine. Because Russia has provided them with ample motivation to join up with them.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Its not paranoia if Putin really is out to get you. Putin has presided of an increasing violent and repressive pogrom against minorities. He has now, twice, invaded his neighbors. He’s violated just about every international agreement Russia has ever signed. He’s not Stalin, but he’s getting there.

  • ferd

    And it’s not helping the cause of peace to have Republicans using Crimea to try to score political points. Obama can and will allow some, many, points to be cynically stolen, because he is humane. But there are limits, for the Democratic fight against oligarchy, here in America, ain’t chopped liver. It’s about as weighty as things can get.

    Now is the time for cool heads on both sides to feel the weight of the dangers, and to find an accommodation.

  • ferd

    Push Obama a little further in Ukraine and elsewhere, and I think Putin, and many others including me, might be surprised at what happens. I pray for peace, though.

  • okie_farmer

    That whole video was staged from the start. There wasn’t a death threat, the so-called Berkut officer didn’t open his mouth, the “death threat” was just shown as screen dialogue. Notice that after the officer politely handed the reporter his ID back and asked for the cameraman’s ID that the reporter created a dust-up for no apparent reason at all. This is the same VICE crew that staged the Pussy Riot “whipping” at Sochi with hired extras to do the whipping with 2 camera crews in place to film it. VICE is a propaganda outfit probably working under contract to a US intelligence agency.

  • dula

    Actually it seems the West is paranoid about Putin, as if he were Stalin reincarnated instead of just another narcissistic oligarch. I haven’t seen this much fear since McCarthy.

  • dula

    I support a democratically elected government in Ukraine working peacefully with the West and Russia (both oligarchies unfortunately) to maintain an economy that benefits the 99%. Remember this whole thing began because their elected leader didn’t wish to leave their entire fate up to the neoliberal EU.
    You support a violent, chaotic revolution/coup.

  • dula

    “NATO will be in Ukraine.”
    Sounds like you love conflict too.

  • FLL

    That’s a very good roundup of the likely repercussions that Russia faces if it finalizes its annexation of Crimea. Some parts of your comment raise serious questions about the persecution of ethnic minorities in Crimea like the Tatars, who are indeed Turks and who suffered a combination of exile and mass murder by Stalin’s government in the late 1940s. Other parts of your comment are laugh-out-loud funny, like where you note that you’ve never met a Putin supporter who wasn’t homophobic. As it applies to the half dozen or so Putin supporters on this blog, that would have to consist of some fascinating combination of external and internal homophobia. Well, if the shoe fits… LMFAO

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    That’s a long way off. Besides, even if Russia had the ability to convert some of that land to agriculture, they’d actually have to invest in it and provide economic incentives to those that invested and worked the land. Other than revenues for oil and gas exports, money in Russia goes one way – out. They don’t do infrastructure. They repel foreign investment. Domestically raised capital runs for the border as soon as it can. There’s little incentive for Russians to invest in their own country because Putin or his thugs will simply take it at any moment, using a thoroughly corrupt court system.
    In short, global warming is an issue, but even if true, we’ve got Alaska and there’s always Canada too.
    The world would be really screwed if we needed Russia to provide leadership on agricultural production because their economy doesn’t appear to be up to the task.

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    Russia is engaged in a violent pogrom against its LGBT and ethnic minorities. That pogrom is effectively licensed by the Russian state through the non-prosecution of those committing crimes openly.
    The plebiscite planned for Ukraine can only be described as ‘Soviet Style’ because the ‘election’ will provide two options. “Join Russia” and “Leave Ukraine”
    The fact that the new Ukraine will be dependent upon the EU and the USA will guarantee that any neo-Nazi influences will be ineffective. Even the nationalists understand that their choice of the EU means rights for minorities.
    No ethnic Russians have been threatened in Ukraine. Ethnic Ukranians, Gays, and Ethnic Minorities have been violently repressed by Russia in the Crimea.
    As far as encouraging conflict, I think that the actions of the Russian military in Crimea speak for themselves.
    Homophobic and Racist Russians who support Putin (I’ve yet to meet any non-homophobic or non-racist supporter of Putin) cannot understand the fact that the USA had little to do with the revolution in Kiev. It was led, largely organically, by Ukrainians fed up with Putin-lackey Yanukovich’s corrupt, incompetent, and repressive regime. The Ukrainians also loathe Putin and his vision for their country (as a vassal state).
    To the supporters of Putin I say this. Hope you’ve seen the West, because good luck getting a visa now. You can vacation in Dubai and Hurghada. I hope you enjoyed an economy that was growing (You’re gonna end up with a nasty recession). I hope you enjoyed having some fiscal stability (You’re gonna have to pay at least 150 Billion to maintain and occupy Crimea, as well as to bail out the Russian banks after Ukraine defaults on all private and public debt to Russia). I hope you realize that if you try to cut of the natgas to Ukraine (which they are now taking for free – and will continue to do so), that Ukraine will simply cut off the water and power supply to Crimea.
    I’d be real careful about how you treat the Tatars too. They’re Turks. I really hope Turkey just rips up the Bosporus transit protocols just like Russia ripped up the Budapest protocols.
    NATO will be in Ukraine. Putin guaranteed that. You may hold on to Crimea, but you will pay a huge price for it, even if Merkel continues to appease.
    Hope you figure out how to build and finance a 4000 mile pipeline system to China without Western technical assistance because Europe is moving away from your rotten gas. South Stream is dead.

  • FLL

    In a word, yes.

  • mirror

    Now you are being silly. C’mon, Pussy Riot makes Putin feel threatened. Pretty much nothing doesn’t make Putin feel threatened. I’m sure, literally, that Putin gets a little extra paranoid when he undoes his fly to pee in the bedroom bathroom of his heavily guarded compound.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    I guess my skepticism comes from their asshole founder who was a racist crazy person. The magazine can also be unabashedly mean and misogynistic. From what I’ve seen they’ve improved but I am still cautious about them.

  • rrgrqr

    Wonder if the conservative Christians are still looking at Russia as the moral country they wish the USA was.

  • cole3244

    we get outraged when this is done to people we support but the things we did in iraq and gitmo are beyond comprehension.

  • Drew2u

    John, what do you think of this LA Times Opinion piece about Russia possibly controlling the world’s food supply in the future? Given what we are doing to our breadbasket states, it’s not that unimaginable:
    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-climate-change-russia-super-power-20140311,0,5497942.story#ixzz2vlHjzEGJ

  • mereside
  • FLL

    I forgot the Ohio State Guard shooting 4 students dead at Kent State. I’m not sure who gave the orders. In any case, I think the U.S. Congress was justified in forcing Nixon to resign, and I think the Ukrainian parliament was definitely justified in forcing Yanukovych to resign. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with your wish for a positive result from the coming Ukrainian elections in May, a result which will not amplify the influence of far-right political parties like Svoboda. At present, Svoboda has 10% of the seats in parliament, although the far-right parties of France and Denmark have, respectively, 18% and 12.5% of their parliaments. Here’s hoping for the best.

  • http://americablog.com magster

    Nixon shot 4 protesters in Ohio….. Guess that was before Congress was set on impeaching him though.

    Otherwise, I am landing more on your side in your interesting argument with Dula. Every place has its bigoted shitheads. Putin is clearly complicit/enabling of his country’s shitheads. Looking at the opulence of the Ukrainian palace Yanukovych and that he is BFF’s with Putin (among other things like this post from John about hooded unmarked soldiers recently mining fields and kidnapping journalists), that I know what side I’m on right now. That said, I appreciate Dula’s concerns about Ukrainian assholes and it’s incumbent on the USA and EU to ensure that Ukraine does not fall to the dark side.

  • FLL

    The evening before Yanukovych left Kiev, the Ukrainian parliament informed Yanukovych that were enough votes in parliament to impeach him and remove him from office. Yanukovych left early the next morning, in effect, resigning. That is not a coup, and you’re being deceptive by continuing to call it a coup. In 1973, a group of Republican senators informed Richard Nixon that there were enough votes in Congress to both impeach him and remove him from office. Nixon resigned immediately afterward. I don’t think you would call that a coup either. In either case, the legislature was acting with constitutional authority. Was the Ukrainian parliament acting with moral authority? Well, what do you think? Yanukovych had ordered his loyalist police forces (who are now manning the Russian checkpoints in Crimea) to shoot and kill over 80 demonstrators. That’s a lot worse than what Nixon did, which was burglarize the opposition party’s offices. Please stop calling the Ukrainian parliament’s action and Yanukovych’s resignation a coup.

    From your comment: “I support including Russia in an economic agreement with the Ukraine.”

    You support Ukraine’s membership in Russia’s customs union? You support?! Who in the hell are you? Would you like to shove off while the voters who actually live in Ukraine have a say as to whether they want to sign an economic agreement with? But thank you for finally being honest and admitting that you want Ukraine to economically align with Putin’s government, an extreme laissez-faire economic regime with a flat corporate tax of 13% (second only to the United Arab Emirates). I don’t think many people, in Ukraine or outside, give a rat’s ass about what you support. I’m sure Ukrainians will have their elections in May, with or without your approval.

  • http://americablog.com magster

    They had some great videos on North Korea too, which are posted on youtube. Have their reports been debunked? From what I’ve seen of their work, they are fearless.

  • dula

    I don’t doubt that Putin enjoys the neo-Nazi influence in the Ukraine. I was pointing out your (and this blog’s) hypocrisy for being outraged at neo-Nazis in Russia but downplaying the neo-Nazis in the Ukraine.
    You’re promoting chaos in the Ukraine by supporting this coup and then naively suggesting that Russia shouldn’t be threatened by what’s happening on its border. I support including Russia in an economic agreement with the Ukraine and guaranteeing that there will be no further NATO expansion in the area…while you encourage conflict.

  • badwolf

    Its real simple. They do it because they can. As it looks now, there will be NO punishment for any of their actions. Britain is bribed by the oligarch money, Germany and others need the gas, and the rest are paralyzed with fear by the thought of actually having to do something with their militaries. Russia gets new territory in Georgia and now Crimea and no one lifts a finger, or really goes out of their way on any sanctions…

  • FLL

    You (and the rest of the world, including the Kremlin authorities) have watched nine months of videos posted all over the Internet in which self-identified neo-Nazis in Russia have kidnapped, beaten and perhaps occasionally killed gay and trans people. Those Russian neo-Nazis don’t have to wear masks either. Why? Because they understand that the Kremlin authorities tacitly approve of their actions and won’t prosecute them. The Russian soldiers at the Crimea checkpoint (and their Kremlin masters) are obviously more nervous because this involves incursion into a sovereign country. What the neo-Nazis do in Russia involves no international repercussions. No masks? No problem. What the Kremlin is doing in Crimea could certainly involve international repercussions. Hence, the masks. Does that logic make sense?

    By the way, your justification for Russian military occupation because of the Kremlin’s complaints about neo-Nazis is hypocritical because Putin uses neo-Nazis in Russia whenever it benefits his agenda. Yes, you are justifying Russian military occupation of Ukraine in comment after comment. Is the Ukrainian representative to the United Nations asking too much when he asks you and other Putin apologists to just give the scheduled Ukrainian elections in May a chance? Is that really asking too much of you?

  • dula

    The neo-Nazis don’t need to wear masks now that they’re established within the government…running four ministries including the Ministry of Defense.

  • FLL

    The Ukrainian soldiers and officers from the video above, none of whom are wearing masks, are under the command of the people who are “running around” in the new Ukrainian government. Generally, it’s people who wear masks and hide their faces who understand that they are doing wrong—or at the least, the people who are commanding them understand that they are doing wrong. What do you think most viewers would think when they watch this video and see the soldiers on one side with masks and the soldiers on the other side without masks?

  • dula

    I’m sure it’s just a few meaningless exceptions like the neo-Nazis running around in the new Ukrainian government. One man’s coup is another man’s revolution is another man’s civil war.

  • FLL

    If I understand correctly, the Russians have planted mines in the no man’s land between the Ukrainian and Russian checkpoints. You could either think of that as scary or hopeful. A minefield suggests that the tiny Chonhar peninsular just on the other side of the Crimea border is the farthest that Russian troops intend to go in the near future because it would take a lot of time and effort to remove all those mines. In other words, the Russians may have shelved any plans to invade southern Ukraine. The three eastern provinces of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk are another matter, of course.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    You cover your face when you’re on a special raid against bin Laden some no one goes and kills your family. YOu dont’ invade a country with 30k troops that are disguised. It’s against international law, which I’d already suspected.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    Great story although I take anything VICE has to report on with a bit of skepticism.

  • Ver Ami

    Why do British SAS cover their faces?

  • StraightGrandmother

    If they are so right, why do they cover their faces?
    Like the Homen.

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