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With Vice's Ostrovosky, Ukraine kidnap toll rises to 16

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The conflict in Ukraine has officially come to the states. On Wednesday, pro-Russian militia forces announced that they have captured Simon Ostrovosky, a journalist who works for Vice Magazine. Can we officially start getting upset about this situation now?

If you've been paying attention to the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the past two weeks, you know that things there are pretty dire. Russian troops are amassed along the border. The Obama administration refuses to do much more than put half-hearted sanctions on Russian officials. The EU is next-to-useless. And, in spite of a treaty signed by both sides that urged combatants to lay down their arms, Pro-Russian militants continue to occupy an increasingly large chunk of the eastern half of the country.

Amid the chaos, pro-Russia forces have begun snatching those who are acting out against them. Perhaps most troubling are the vague reasons that the militants are using as justifications for these abductions. In the case of Simon Ostrovosky, for example, pro-Russia forces accused the journalist of "bad activities". They refused to divulge more details.

Certainly, Ostrovsky's Twitter feed is filled with information that might not please those forces occupying Ukraine and Sloviansk, the town where much of the fighting has centered in recent days. However, most of the reporting, while still lightly sprayed with the snark most young people use on their Twitter feeds, is still entirely based in fact. Some people would call it subversive; others would simply call it journalism.

“We condemn any such actions, and all recent hostage-takings in eastern Ukraine, which directly violate commitments made in the Geneva joint statement,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in response to the abduction. “We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine.”

Russia would be smart to remedy this situation quickly, because, as Iran learned in the ‘80s, nothing whips the American public into a frenzy quicker than some tyrant putting Americans in jeopardy. That might sound a little jingoistic, but give this kidnapping two days to make the rounds and let's see what happens.

Ostrovsky might be the first American to be taken, but he's hardly the first person. Below, find a little insight into the 12 others who have been forcefully abducted since the fighting in Ukraine began.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Artem Deynega

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Artem Deynega is, by all accounts, a private citizen. That didn't stop "unknown people" from kidnapping Deynega from his apartment on April 13.

That was the date when pro-Russia forces attacked the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine and seized several government buildings and government supplies. In fact, just a few days after the assault, videos like this one - of separatists doing donuts in Ukrainian tanks - started hitting the web.

During the initial onslaught, Deynega was seen video-taping the action from the balcony of his apartment, which lies right across the street from the now-overrun Ukrainian State Security Service building. He has not been seen since, and his whereabouts are currently unknown.

Pictured: Pro-Russian militant stand guard in front of the occupied Ukraine Security Service building on April 21, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Pro-Russian militants have taken over the building and other government buildings in the city and are demanding independence from Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

http://ukraineinvestigation.com/
http://ukraineinvestigation.com/ Serhiy Lefter

http://ukraineinvestigation.com/

22-year-old Serhiy Lefter is a freelance reporter working for the Open Dialogue Foundation, an organization dedicated to pursuing "European values –personal freedom, human rights, democracy and self-government". Lefter was last heard from on the evening of April 15. Currently, the ODF is laying the blame at the feet of the Russian Federation.

According to Coutts.com Lefter was "accused of espionage and of being a member of a militant group." He was reported to have been incarcerated in the Ukrainian State Security Service building in Sloviansk. That was on April 17. He hasn't been heard from since.

Pictured: Serhiy Lefter

http://dyvys.info/
http://dyvys.info/ Nelya Shtepa

http://dyvys.info/

Nelya Shtepa can't seem to decide which side she's on. According to the Huffington Post Shtepa, the former mayor of Sloviansk, initially sided with the separatists when they stormed the city on April 13.

Only a few days later, Shtepa switched sides, calling the pro-Russian presence an "occupation". Shtepa claimed that her initial support of the incursion was merely a ruse to help free dozens of hostages who were being held captive in seized government buildings throughout the region.

Her change of heart didn't please those in power and she subsequently went missing for five days. Shtepa resurfaced again on Tuesday with yet another change of heart. This time she called the insurgents men with "strong souls". It was at this time that her resignation letter, apparently signed willingly, began to surface.

She has since been replaced in office by a supporter of the pro-Russia militants.

Pictured: Nelya Shtepa

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Oleg Prokhorov

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Not much is known about the disappearance of Oleg Prokhorov. It's believed that Lieutenant-Colonel Prokhorov, the chief of police in Sloviansk, was kidnapped on April 19. Beyond that, no one has officially acknowledged his disappearance and his location is currently a mystery.

Pictured: A pro-Russian militant sits on top of an armored personnel carrier (APC) in front of the occupied Ukraine Security Service building on April 21, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. The APC was reported to have been taken from the Ukraine army. Pro-Russian militants have taken over the building and other government buildings in the city and are demanding independence from Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

twitter.com/GrahamWP_UK
twitter.com/GrahamWP_UK Irma Krat

twitter.com/GrahamWP_UK

Irma Krat may be the most high profile of the separatists hostages. It might be because she's one of the few hostages that they've openly acknowledged grabbing, or it could be because she's given to walking into war zones and saying thngs like, “I came over here to give voice to people who have not been heard."

In other words, Krat has a history of disobedience. Several reports have linked her to work with pro-Ukraine militant groups, and the separatists themselves are claiming that she aided and abetted in torture.

Of course, Krat denies these allegations and staunchly refuses to admit any wrongdoing. Her refusal to admit any culpability actually comes off as pretty brave. When someone suggested her profile might get her ransomed to safety, she snarled, "I am not a dog to be traded. I will get out of here by my own efforts; I have done nothing wrong.”

Pictured: Irma Krat

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Paul Gogo, Kossimo Attanasio and Dmitry Galko

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Monday, Italian journalists Paul Gogo and Kossimo Attanasio were detained alongside a reporter from Belarus named Dmitry Galko. The reporters were Sloviansk filming the conditions in the city when they were kidnapped by separatists.

While they were released quickly, their recording equipment, money and personal documents were confiscated by forces occupying the city.

Pictured: A pro-Russian militant stands guard in front of the occupied Ukraine Security Service building on April 21, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Pro-Russian militants have taken over the building and other government buildings in the city and are demanding independence from Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images
Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images Vitaliy Kolupai

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Ukraine Interior Ministry reported that (forgive the poorly translated Ukrainian): "unidentified armed men under the command of a citizen of the Russian Federation Igor Strelkova ... captured and taken hostage the chief [of the] city police department of the city of Donetsk ... police colonel Vitaly Kolupay."

According to the Ministry, the men who abducted Kolupai are demanding weapons in exchange for his safe release.

Pictured: A child looks at one of two Soviet T-34 tanks in a Soviet War Memorial on April 22, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. German politicians have condemned a petition launched last week by the B.Z. newspaper as well as the country's best-selling tabloid, Bild, which encouraged readers to send letters of protest to the federal parliament demanding the removal of the tanks located in the Soviet War Memorial in the city's central Tiergarten Park located near the Brandenburg Gate, erected by the Soviet Union to commemorate the 80,000 Soviet Armed Forces soldiers who died during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. An extract of the petition reads, in explanation, that the tanks do not belong in such a prominent position 'in an era when Russian tanks are threatening a free and democratic Europe.'

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Mr. Yakymov

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

At around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the head of Sloviansk's medical forensics service, a Mr. Yakymov (first name not released), was taken hostage for approximately 3 hours.

Though he was released quickly, the details of Yakymov's incarceration are sketchy at best. The man himself refused to say anything about his brief brush with captivity, and officials will only report that Yakymov is "very scared" and that his kidnapping had something to do with the murder of Volodymyr Rybak (who we'll get to shortly).

Pictured: A woman and child walk past a barricade near the Ukraine Security Service building on April 21, 2014 in Slovyansk Ukraine. Pro-Russian militants have taken over the building and other government buildings in the city and are demanding independence from Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Yuriy Zahrebelny

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The prosecutor in Sloviansk, Yuriy Zahrelbelny, was taken hostage by militants for 40 minutes on Tuesday around 6 p.m. He refuses to discuss the details.

Pictured: A 12-year-old boy and girl pose for a picture with pro-Russian militant while their 14-year-old friend takes a picture outside the city council building on April 21, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Pro-Russian militants have taken over the council building and other government buildings in the city demanding independence form Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images Yevhen Hapych

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yevhen Hapych was in Artemivsk, a town approximately 30 miles from Sloviansk. On Monday, the photographer and reporter published a blog post about the checkpoint situation in Ukraine. The post ends with Hapych sharing the peaceful conditions in Artemivsk.

"In Artemivsk quiet: no block-posts or separatists," the (again, poorly translated) blog post reads. Hapych was reported missing the following morning, Tuesday, around 10 a.m.

Pictured: Mourners leave flowers at a memorial for three pro-Russian activists who were killed on Easter Sunday when gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint they were manning on April 22, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Pro-Russian militants have been manning roadblocks around Slovyansk and have taken control of government buildings in the city. They are demanding independence from Ukraine. Other pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings in other eastern Ukraine cities in recent weeks making similar demands.

http://euromaidanpr.com/
http://euromaidanpr.com/ Volodymyr Rybak (corpse found with unidentified man)

http://euromaidanpr.com/

Kidnapped on April 17, the body of Volodymyr Rybak was found on the banks of the river Torets with another unnamed man. Discovered with evidence of "brutal torture" on his corpse, Rybak's death has been a double-edged sword for the conflict.

On the one hand, it has catalyzed citizens of the Ukraine and the rest of the world into acting out. Interim President of Ukraine, Oleksander Turchinov was livid, saying, "I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists." The fervor Rybak's murder has kicked up has also threatened to undermine the tenuous diplomatic progress that has been made over the last few days.

Video footage released this morning appears to tell the tale. Apparently, Rybak got into it with some pro-Russia activists after he tried to remove a separatist flag outside the town hall of Horlivka, a town in the war-torn region of Donetsk.

Witnesses at the scene report that although Rybak was permitted to walk away from that conflict, he was seen being herded into a vehicle by masked men just a short time later.

Pictured: Volodymyr Rybak

http://tsn.ua/
http://tsn.ua/ Vadym Sukhonos

http://tsn.ua/

On Wednesday, a city councilman in Sloviansk, Vadym Sukhonos was reportedly kidnapped by Kremlin-backed forces.

Sukhonos has reportedly been very vocal in his disagreement with the separatist ideology.

Pictured: Vadym Sukhonos

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