As Russia confirms it jailed missing Ukrainian journalist, calls mount for her release

Washington — Nearly eight months after a freelance journalist disappeared on assignment in Russian-occupied Ukraine, Moscow confirmed that the reporter is in its custody. 

Victoria Roshchyna, a contributor to Ukrainian media outlets including Ukrainska Pravda, had planned to report on what life is like for those living under Russian occupation.  

But shortly after passing through a border post on Aug. 3, 2023, communication between Roshchyna and her family ended. Since then, her family and colleagues have been trying to locate the journalist.  

Then last month, Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed in a letter to the family that the reporter has been detained in Russian territory.  

The status of her health — as well as her specific whereabouts — are still unknown. It’s also unclear whether she has been charged with any crime.  

For the International Women’s Media Foundation, or IWMF, which awarded Roshchyna its 2022 courage award, there was a certain amount of relief in knowing that the journalist was detained. 

“Because there was also serious concern that she had been killed,” IWMF executive director Elisa Lees Munoz told VOA. 

Now their attention is on trying to secure Roshchyna’s release. 

“There’s no question that the detention is unjust. But there’s also little hope that there will be some sort of real justice applied in the near future,” Munoz said.  

The Russian Defense Ministry delivered the news of Roshchyna’s detention in a letter to her father. He then alerted the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, or NUJU, about her detention. 

The media union released a statement this week demanding “the immediate and unconditional release from captivity of Victoria Roshchyna and other illegally captured journalists.” 

Russia’s Washington embassy did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.  

Roshchyna’s family reported the journalist missing to Ukrainian authorities about a week after their last call, during which she said she had passed a border post.  

At the time, the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, told the family that the journalist may have been captured by Russian occupation forces. 

“We know that Ukrainian journalists working for independent media in the occupied territories are being hunted down by Russian forces,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders, said in an October 2023 statement, about two months into Roshchyna’s disappearance.  

Russia ranks among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. In late 2023, the press freedom group documented 22 journalists jailed by Russia.  

Of those, 12 were foreign nationals, including two Americans and 10 Ukrainians.  

 Roshchyna was previously abducted by Russian forces in March 2022 while reporting in Berdiansk, in occupied southeastern Ukraine. She was released after nine days.  

In an interview last year, Roshchyna’s father said that he had asked her to be careful after that incident. But, he said, she was “unstoppable — she was not able to stop covering the news of this war on the occupied territories for her readers.” 

Munoz said that Roshchyna has long been known for being “an extremely vocal and brave journalist.”  

“She really dedicated her career to writing about some of the most dangerous topics you could write about in Ukraine,” Munoz said. 

She recalled how when the IWMF invited Roshchyna to the United States to accept the courage award in person, Roshchyna declined, saying she needed to keep reporting.  

“That is who Victoria is,” Munoz said.

leave a reply: