A freelance journalist for CNN was abducted by armed separatists in eastern Ukraine outside of his Donetsk hotel Tuesday.
The Donetsk People's Republic seized the journalist, Anton Skiba, at the Donbass Palace Hotel as he and his crew returned from the MH17 crash site Tuesday evening.
CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson says Skiba only worked for CNN for one day. Skiba was hired as a fixer. He’s a Ukrainian local working as a translator for CNN.
Rebels accused him of posting ransom for the death of rebel fighters on his Facebook page. Per CNN:
Alexandr Kalyussky, the deputy prime minister in charge of industry in the Donetsk People's Republic, initially accused Skiba of "terrorism" and of posting cash rewards for the killing of separatist fighters on his Facebook page. Kalyussky showed a folder of printed documents that he claimed was evidence, including an apparent printout of Skiba's Facebook page.
Skiba was immediately taken into custody by the rebels. Watson says Skiba did not resist. He is believed to still be in rebel custody 48 hours later.
When CNN cameraman Jeff Kehl tried to film Skiba's detention, the deputy prime minister in charge of industry in the Donetsk People's Republic, Alexandr Kalyussky, allegedly seized his cell phone. He later returned the phone on the condition that Kehl delete the video.
CNN did not report on the missing journalist. Instead they tried to work with officials to get the young man released, to no avail.
In subsequent conversations with CNN, Kalyussky dropped the allegation about the Facebook post and said Skiba was being held for having multiple forms of identification with different names on them. Another high-ranking separatist official told CNN Wednesday that Skiba admitted to being a “Ukrainian agent.”
The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine reportedly said he was "very alarmed by the fact that a fixer for CNN was abducted from his hotel [Tuesday] night by separatists in Donetsk."
"I strongly condemn this incident. Journalists must not become targets just for fulfilling their professional duties," Dunja Mijatovic, the representative for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, told CNN.
Watson says Skiba also worked with BBC News since the crash of the Malaysia Airlines jet.
Image screenshot: CNN