Voices in Danger: The innocent journalist kidnapped by Russian separatists for 'spying'

Journalists are becoming increasingly targeted by separatists in Eastern Ukraine

Share

Despite journalist Anastasiya Stanko taking every precaution to safely travel through conflict-torn Eastern Ukraine, she and her cameraman were kidnapped and held for three days in a dark, cold basement. Her captors told her, “You are here because you are a journalist of the enemy state.” In this exclusive interview, Voices in Danger speaks to the recently released Anastasiya Stanko.

A friend of a friend had arranged for Stanko and her cameraman, Ilya Bezkorovaynyi, to be escorted through Eastern Ukraine by members of the high-profile security unit known as “Death to Spies” (SMERSH). Hours after their fact-finding mission began, five men yielding AK-47s stormed their bus and pulled black hoods over their heads.

Amid the chaos they were ordered to board a mini-bus. Individuals believed to be members of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) held the crew down on the floor of the mini-bus throughout the journey to the final destination - a basement.

Stanko later learned that the basement belonged to “the local oligarch”, located near separatist headquarters and the regional state administration of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR). On 1 July, Valeriy Bolotov, leader of LNR, announced that the journalists from Hromadske TV had been charged with “spying for the Ukrainian army”.

“I thought they would kill us,” recalled Stanko. She described how, “The last 24 hours they didn't feed us or let us go the toilet.” The one thing Stanko said she can never forget about her ordeal is a phrase uttered by the NKVD leader: “Ukrainian journalists call us terrorists but terrorists kidnap people, torture them. What about us?” This while Stanko, Bezkorovaynyi and two other prisoners were forced to squat on a cold basement floor.

Only a few days have passed since Stanko's living nightmare came to an end, but the repercussions have already begun. She has received several lovesick texts by one of her captors who held her prisoner in the basement. Plus, her husband has since joined the Ukrainian Army and now risks his life on a daily basis.

 

Stanko continues her search for the truth. She said, “Almost no journalists, except Russian ones, can work in the territory of the self-proclaimed LNR. Ordinary citizens of Luhansk are frightened of the Ukrainian army, who they believe will come and kill all of them. We cannot find truth.”

Amnesty International has expressed concern about the impact of the current conflict in eastern Ukraine on the civilian population. Information gathered from official sources indicate that from 15 April to 20 June, 423 people, including servicemen and civilians, have been killed. There may have been violations of international humanitarian law by both sides, including the use of civilian buildings (particularly schools and hospitals) from which to fire at aircraft by the anti-Kyiv forces.

Voices in Danger contacted LNR for comment. There was no response.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the old Palace of Westminster; Batman vs Superman; and more Greenery

John Rentoul
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee