A British journalist reporting for a Russian television channel from conflict-torn eastern Ukraine has gone missing, with Moscow alleging he and another journalist were captured by Kiev’s troops.
Graham Phillips, a British national who works as a stringer for state-owned channel RT (formerly Russia Today), went to cover intense fighting around Donetsk airport on Tuesday, but RT has had no contact with him since the early hours of Wednesday, it said.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Phillips disappeared, together with a cameraman for Anna-News, an obscure agency based in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, that produces pro-Russian reports from the Ukraine conflict.
“According to available information, they have been captured by Ukrainian forces,” the ministry statement said, calling it a “targeted provocation of Ukrainian authorities towards independent international journalists”.
Also on Wednesday, the US ambassador to Ukraine wrote on Twitter that a Ukrainian journalist had been abducted by pro-Russian rebels.
The Donetsk-based website 62.ua quoted sources as saying that he was abducted from a hotel while working for CNN.
“We deplore the abduction of journalist Anton Skiba in Donetsk and call for his immediate release. Separatists’ kidnapping must end,” Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt wrote.
RT said that it lost contact with Phillips after receiving a text message saying “All is fine” at around 2am local time, but said he was not reporting for RT at the time.
Anna-News on Wednesday said that the two journalists were “captured by Fascists,” giving only the first name of its own reporter, Vadim.
RT said it had warned Phillips not to go to the airport since it was “extremely dangerous,” but had understood from his social networking posts that he had gone anyway.
It also quoted another journalist named as Maksim Dimitrov as saying that Phillips had gone ahead to the airport on Tuesday evening and “most likely ran into an ambush,” but “we presume he is alive.”
Phillips, who writes on Twitter as GrahamWPhillips, last tweeted on Tuesday evening, saying: “There’s been some heavy shelling and I’m right by Donetsk airport as it looks to be an active night here.”
Russia’s foreign ministry called for the journalists “immediate release,” adding that two other journalists were also detained overnight, without naming them.