Award-winning Ukrainian reporter missing since August, possibly detained in Russian territory

By Olivia Land | Originally published: New York Post

A Ukrainian journalist who won plaudits for her coverage of the Russian invasion last year has been missing for two months – and her family and colleagues now fear she is in the hands of Putin’s regime.

Freelance reporter Victoria Roshchyna was last heard from on Aug. 3, when she was on a work trip in Russian-occupied territory, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) said Wednesday.

“We are extremely concerned for her safety,” the IWMF statement read.

Roschyna’s family now fears that she is a “frozen” prisoner, or a detainee in occupied territory without an official status.

“To my daughter, journalism was the most important thing in her life, she was very devoted to her profession,” Roshchyna’s father, Vladimir Roshchyn told The Daily Beast.

Roschyna, 26, has been on the frontlines of the Russian invasion since Feb. 2022, the foundation explained. Her intrepid coverage – which included two periods in Russian captivity in March 2022 – earned her the IWMF’s 2022 Courage in Journalism Award.

“I asked her to slow down after her first captivity, I said, ‘Vika, I can pay your salary, just please don’t go to the front’ but she was firm, unstoppable—she was not able to stop covering the news of this war on the occupied territories for her readers,” her father recalled.

Victoria Roshchyna, 26, has been missing since Aug. 3.Facebook

Roshchyna left for Poland on July 27, and was expected to travel through Russia to reach occupied territories in eastern Ukraine three days later, Roshchyn explained.

When the family finally reached her on Aug. 3, she said she made it through days of border checks but did not reveal her exact location.

Roschyna was eventually reported missing to Ukrainian authorities on Aug. 12, The Daily Beast said.

Her family filed an official missing case with the Security Service of Ukraine, the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine, and the Ombudsman on Sept. 21, the outlet added.

“The Ukrainian security service confirms to us that Victoria has been captured by Russia. Public officials tell us that there are many ‘frozen’ Ukrainian detainees in Russian jails, she might be among them,” Roshchyn lamented.

“We have many so-called ‘frozen’ cases of our citizens, who were detained on the occupied territories during the war but Russian authorities did not register them at any jail,” Yevgenia Kopalkyna, an attorney for the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group, told The Daily Beast.

Victoria Roshchyna was been captured by Russia's military twice in March 2022.
Victoria Roshchyna was captured by Russia’s military twice in March 2022.Facebook

“The missing people can be kept in these jails for months without any help from defense lawyers, it is impossible to find them, unless somebody who gets released tells us that they’ve seen them.”

Russian human rights activist and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize awardee Svetlana Gannushkina told The Daily Beast that she requested an update on Roschyna from Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Unfortunately, I have not received any response, yet,” Gannushkina told the outlet, noting that “the answer can take more than a month” because “there are many requests.”

Roshchyna was working for the Hromdske media outlet and had no war correspondent experience when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, The Daily Beast said.

From the beginning, Roshchyna used her skills to provide exhaustive descriptions of life under siege – even as her hometown, Zaporizhzhia, became one of the early victims of near-constant artillery assault while the nearby Donetsk region was laid bare.

Ukrainian servicemen ride in a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system near a front line in August.
Ukrainian servicemen ride in a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system near a front line in August.REUTERS

The work came with considerable risks: As of Wednesday, 17 media workers have been killed in Ukraine as a result of the conflict, according to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The first, freelander Iho Hudenko, died on assignment near the frontlines just two days after the invasion started.

Roschyna, however, was undaunted by danger.

Several times over the last 20 months, she replied to her editors’ concerns for her safety by insisting that “this is the most important story,” according to The Daily Beast.

She narrowly avoided disaster multiple times: On March 7 – just a few weeks into the invasion – a battalion of Russian tanks fired on her car, the outlet reported. One week later, the Russian military detained her in Vasilivka.

She wrote about her escape from captivity for Hromadske. In retaliation for her report, Russia’s FSB captured her a second time on March 11.

According to Roshchyna, she was blindfolded, had her equipment confiscated, and spent several days in captivity at a camp in Berdyansk, where she was accused of being a Russian spy.

After being released, she returned to Zaporizhzhia, where she replaced her equipment and continued reporting on the conflict, The Daily Beast said.

“She is a brave journalist, she commits to report the most controversial topics, which require courage,” Sevgil Musaieva, the editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda, told the outlet.

Victoria Roshchyna.
Victoria Roshchyna said she saw her war reporting work as a “professional duty.”Facebook

“She is not a spy, she is a real journalist; she is not indifferent to the fate of people who remained in the occupied territories. It is important for her to tell their stories.

“I am calling for Ukrainian authorities to do everything to find her and for Russian authorities to immediately release journalist Victoria Roshchyna,” she insisted.

“That they went public with this is really indicative of their desperation,” Elisa Lees Muñoz, the IWMF’s executive director, told the Washington Post of Roschyna’s colleagues’ decision to start speaking out about her disappearance.

Going public, Lees Muñoz explained, can be seen as “provocation” by the captors.

The reporter behind The Daily Beast piece – Russian journalist Anna Nemtsova, who is also Roshchyna’s friend and colleague, told Lees Muñoz that “it’s time to raise hell and publish.”

“At least if she’s in the basement, they’ll stop torturing her,” she insisted.

When she won the IWMF award last year, Roschyna spoke briefly about her work reporting on the war.

“I was never afraid to tell the truth,” she explained.

“People need to know the truth, and the guilty must be held accountable. I do not consider it courage but, rather, my professional duty.”