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Freed VICE reporter says he'll return to Ukraine: Captors 'wanted to stop me reporting'

April 28, 2014 at 8:42 AM ET

Simon Ostrovsky, an American journalist who was taken prisoner for three days last week in eastern Ukraine, said Monday he is eager to return to the region despite the escalating danger.

“I think the reason they took me was because they wanted to stop me reporting, so I’d really like to go back to Ukraine and continue sending stories from there, because that’s what it’s all about,” he told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in his first interview since his April 24 release.

Ostrovsky, who was documenting the region’s political upheaval for VICE Media, was detained with his cameraman and several other journalists by separatist rebels at a security checkpoint on April 21 in the city of Slaviansk. He said guards recognized him from a photograph and took him to security headquarters.

“The first night was really terrible. They blindfolded me, tied my hands behind my back,” he said. They took him to the cellar and began beating him.

“Two or three guys, I think, were beating me, sort of, on this part of my body,” he said, gesturing to his torso. “I realized they weren’t trying to hit me in the face and they weren’t trying to leave any lasting marks so that was encouraging for me. I just thought to myself, 'I could probably take a beating.' I don’t think they want to kill me, I think they just want to put a scare in me — and it was really scary.”

He said the worst part of his detainment was fearing that nobody knew where he was.

This picture taken on April 21, 2014 shows US journalist Simon Ostrowsky (C) working in front of the City Hall of Slavyansk. The US State Department s...
STRINGER / AFP - Getty Images
Ostrovsky, working in front of the City Hall of Slavyansk on April 21.

“For the entire three days I was there, I was wondering if the rest of the world even knew what happened to me,” he said, not knowing at the time that his cameraman had been released an hour after their detainment.

Ostrovsky said his captors “let me cool out” for more than a day, blindfolded, before interrogating him.

“That’s when I got a feeling for what they thought of me, or what they were trying to accuse me of. They asked if I was CIA, FBI,” he said. 

Pro-Russian forces have been skeptical about Western journalists, accusing many of being tools by their government, and Ostrovsky said his captors at one point suggested he was a member of a far right Ukrainian national movement, “which seemed like a pretty ridiculous thing for me, but they see them as being sponsored by the West, too, so that fits into their view of the West ganging up on Russia and trying to take Ukraine for itself.”

Ostrovsky said he only has a vague sense of why he was singled out among journalists “beyond the fact that they were unhappy with my reporting.”

He said he’s seen press conferences where the leader of the pro-Russian militants in Slaviansk said “he was trying to teach me a lesson.”

For more on Ostrovsky's story, go to VICENews.com

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