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Lviv journalist held hostage in Slovyansk released


Yury Lelyavsky, Lviv journalist working as a freelance correspondent for ZIK has been released, the latter reports.  As with Serhiy Leftner and Artem Deineha, the release was only announced after Lelyavsky was safely back in Lviv, though he had been freed on May 9.

Lelyavsky says that he does not know all the circumstances around his release.  The head of the Mediastar information agency Zoryana Pavlyshyn-Ilenko who was involved in the efforts acknowledges that the release came about through personal arrangements but does not want to divulge further information. Ukrainian colleagues who wish to remain anonymous had helped, she adds.

Lelyavsky was planning material for both ZIK and RIA Novosti, but was detained within an hour of arriving in Slovyansk. As reported earlier, it was indeed the case that he was detained because he had Lviv registration in his passport.

He was held hostage by the pro-Russian militants for 15 days, all the time in the SBU basement but in different rooms. For the first three days he was held in a cell by himself, and had to sleep on a board.  Then, following the storming of the city (part of the authorities’ anti-terrorist operation), he was moved into a general room with around 10-12 other hostages who were changing all the time.

He says that he was not beaten, but was held for up to ten days with scotch tape over his eyes. They were given food twice a day and taken outside, blindfolded, once a day.  The military action was normally at night and since there were losses, the hostages were most frightened in the mornings that the militants would seem to avenge themselves. 

He told ZIK, though not explaining the source of his information, that as far as he knew 90% of the population did support secession from Ukraine.  He said that people are coming in families bringing food to the barricades where they constantly use statements from radical nationalist politicians to wind local people up. 

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