Russia Today (RT) contributor Graham Phillips was reportedly taken hostage in Ukraine. It's no longer surprising to hear that a journalist is being threatened or detained there, but Phillips's case is a little different.
The BBC reports that the U.K. Foreign Office is aware of the situation and has been in touch with Ukrainian authorities, and is prepared to offer "consular assistance." Though he works for RT, Phillips is a British citizen. Much of the other information, it seems, is coming from RT. The BBC reports:
The station said he had been detained in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. The National Guard later said it intended to transport him to Kiev.... In a statement, the organization said he had not been in contact with anyone via phone, email or Twitter since 15:20 Moscow time on Tuesday. It said he had been detained that morning and was believed to have been taken for "interrogation" by the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU.
The BBC adds that, according to Ukrainian officials, Phillips had been detained and indeed been passed over to the SBU. Representatives from the National Guard said that he would be sent to Kiev and handed over to the British embassy, which would set him free.
It's not clear why Phillips was taken into custody, but he marks the third Russia-affiliated journalist to be taken by pro-Ukrainians forces — according to Russia, anyway. The whole situation seems as a bit too simple, especially in a place as complex as Ukraine.
In a comprehensive review of Phillips's career so far, Buzzfeed's Max Seddon noted that RT has maintained a tense relationship with the amateur blogger. Seddon writes that the network embraced Phillips when they saw the type of work he was doing: pro-rebel man-on-the-street interviews in east Ukraine, which breathily referred to rumor and hearsay as truth. This made Phillips an excellent, Western spokesperson for the Kremlin, something RT was quick to recognize and exploit. But Phillips's amateur status was also valuable for the outlet, per Seddon:
Though Phillips works separately from RT’s team of staff reporters, he is by far the channel’s most recognizable figure in the region. He can often be seen throughout eastern Ukraine mingling with staff from RT and pro-Kremlin cable channel LifeNews. RT, however, falls short of embracing him fully. Phillips has received no offer of full-time work. The channel frequently features his videos, but takes pains to point out that he is not a staff correspondent.
Though RT has distanced itself from Phillips at times, it was quick to jump to his support when he was reportedly captured. His arrest by Ukrainian forces makes for a convenient story for the Kremlin, which has been accused of stirring unrest in a region where pro-Kiev journalists and activists have been captured, beaten and disappeared at alarming rates.