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25 Jul, 2014 23:12

‘He had a gun to my head’: Released RT contributor tells of 3-day Ukraine captivity

RT has managed to re-establish contact with Graham Phillips, a news contributor who was captured at Donetsk airport on Tuesday night while covering the Ukrainian conflict. Philips shared firsthand details of his three days in captivity with RT.

“I am in Poland. I am not exactly sure where I am. I just got to the border by the SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) quite recently, so I am getting my bearings,” Phillips told RT, which contacted the journalist via Skype after his release.

Phillips said he was deported from Ukraine and banned for three years on the grounds that he works for RT. “The reason they gave [me] that was simply that I work for RT, that was all it said in the form. They wouldn’t let me take it or copy it. Just said that ‘you work for RT, it’s the enemy.’ I wasn’t given the chance to defend myself. I was just taken to the border.”

The journalist said it all started three days ago when he was on his way to film fire exchanges between government forces and militants just a few hundred meters away from the airport in Donetsk. He was with Vadim Aksyonov, a stringer for ANNA News agency.

“RT told me not to go in strong terms, but I went anyway with the local journalist Vadim. And we were taken by Ukrainian soldiers and Vadim was pretty badly beaten right in front of me by Ukrainian soldiers. He was on the ground, his head in the ground, just a young guy punching him and kicking him,” Phillips said.

“Then they took him away and then I was left with the soldier, who had a gun to my head and I was told that if my details didn’t check out, he would not guarantee that I was going to live...We just went in there to film. I had a PRESS vest on, cameras, and it got pretty heated.”

Shelling forced the soldiers to bring Phillips inside the building.

“I was blindfolded. I was pushed around a little bit, sat down and then interrogated, asked a lot of questions about the Donetsk Republic. I would not give any information. They took all my things off me.”

After Phillips' possessions were searched, he was taken to a prison cell.

“They put me in the cell with Vadim, we spent the night in a cell together. We had no water, no toilet, we were in a dark cell, it was completely pitch black, could not see a thing. The next day they drove me out, they left Vadim there.”

At one point during his captivity, Phillips found himself in a room that was being bombed.

“They [Ukrainian soldiers] put me in a room next to their artillery position, where they were firing from. And they started firing pretty heavily from the next room, so the room I was in was getting fired on. I was there for the day. By the end of the day they put me in a military vehicle, blindfolded me and took me off to a base in a forest,” he described.

“I was on my knees in the middle of a forest and there were soldiers around me, shouting at me.”

After several interrogations, Philips was taken to Kiev and then to the Polish border, where he was “dumped out.”

Philips’ Facebook, Twitter and other accounts were hacked following interrogations by the SBU.

“I’ve got a few of my things, but I’ve found that all of my accounts have been hacked. SBU deleted every single file from my computer. My car has been taken, my money, my bullet proof vest. The main thing is that I am alright.”

He describes himself as being “a little bit shell shocked” after spending three days in captivity.

Thank you so so much for all the support and nice messages. I'm a bit shaken but ok, and really want to get back to work again asap.

— GrahamWPhillips (@GrahamWP_UK) July 25, 2014