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There is increasing concern for a Ukrainian journalist who has been missing for nearly three months.
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There is increasing concern for a Ukrainian journalist who has been missing for nearly three months.

It has been nearly three months since Victoria Roshchyna’s relatives and colleagues have received any communication from the acclaimed journalist from Ukraine.

Roshchyna, a brave journalist who is recognized for her coverage of the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow, disappeared after going through a checkpoint. Her friends and co-workers suspect that she was detained by Russian forces.

The journalist swiftly transitioned from covering legal proceedings to reporting on the front lines after her homeland was invaded by Russian forces.

She has contributed articles to various publications such as Hromadske and Ukrainska Pravda, both Ukrainian news websites, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a broadcasting network.

Roshchyna shared accounts of children who lost their lives in Dnipro and Berdyansk. She also talked to survivors of a missile attack in Uman and provided coverage from Mariupol, where Russian invaders held a commemoration in the midst of destroyed homes. Through interviews with both soldiers and civilians, she humanized the harsh realities of war.

However, reporting on these incidents posed significant danger to oneself.

On March 5, 2022, Russian forces fired at the vehicle that Roshchyna was riding in. She and the driver were able to flee and find refuge in a nearby residence. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization based in New York, Roshchyna’s camera and laptop were taken from the car.

In under seven days, Roshchyna was apprehended by Russian security agents. She was then kept in custody for a duration of 10 days, subjected to physical violence and intimidation.

She shared her experience with Hromadske, explaining, “I did not experience fear… I only felt despair for the unknown and wasted time, as I was unable to complete my job.”

Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), praised the bravery and persistence of a journalist who was detained by Russian soldiers, yet returned to continue reporting without hesitation. This demonstrates an exceptional level of courage and determination in the face of danger, according to Munoz.

In 2022, Roshchyna was honored with the Courage Award by the IWMF for her reporting on the war.

One year after giving the award, Munoz and others are now pushing for Roshchyna’s freedom.

Munoz stated that causing someone to disappear is a heinous act, as it serves as a warning to others that the same could happen to them.

Last call

In late July, Roshchyna departed from Ukraine with the goal of traveling through Poland and Russia in order to reach the Russian-occupied regions of southeastern Ukraine.

On August 3, Anna Nemtsova, a correspondent for the Daily Beast who has communicated with Roshchyna’s family, stated that Roshchyna had contacted a family member to inform them that she had gone through multiple checkpoints. However, the specific location was not disclosed.

According to Nemtsova, the Ukrainian security service notified Roshchyna’s father that she had been taken by Russian authorities. Despite their efforts, her friends have been unable to locate her in nearby prisons in the occupied areas.

An email was sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington by VOA requesting a response, but no reply was received.

According to the Ukrainian National Information Bureau, they maintain records of both prisoners of war and civilian hostages. However, they stated that they are legally unable to disclose any information from these records or make any media statements about them.

Nemtsova informed VOA that the parents of Victoria are devastated. Her father, mother, and sister are all extremely concerned for her well-being. They lament that she continued to report in the most perilous areas, but no one could persuade Victoria to stop.

Nemtsova, who reports on events in Russia and Eastern Europe, was introduced to Roshchyna through her written works.

Afterwards, the two had several conversations via phone. Nemtsova, a previous recipient of the IWMF Courage Award, was the one who nominated her colleague for the prize.

Nemtsova shared with VOA that Roshchyna was focused on this story, this tragic event, the invasion of Ukraine. It was her priority, the reason behind her actions, and deemed as the most significant aspect. According to mutual acquaintances, Roshchyna appeared exhausted and worn during the winter months of the war. However, she persisted in her reporting.

Maria Romanenko, a journalist and activist from Ukraine, collaborated with Roshchyna for multiple years when she served as the editor-in-chief at Hromadske, an independent media organization in Ukraine.

Romanenko portrayed Roshchyna as a reserved, industrious individual with bold bravery and an unwavering dedication to journalism.

Romanenko shared with VOA that she possessed a remarkable courage within her. She fearlessly pursued stories that others seemed uninterested in, displaying a willingness to do so.

Romanenko departed from Ukraine following the invasion by Russia and currently resides in the United Kingdom. She expressed concerns about press freedom during the initial stages of the war, fearing the repercussions if Russia were to completely take over the country.

According to Romanenko, it is not unusual for journalists to disappear, face arrest, or lose their lives in Russia. She stated that Russia is not a secure place for journalists and that when they engage in aggression towards other nations, they often replicate similar situations in the territories they control.

According to the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders, Russia ranks 164th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, with 180 being the lowest level of freedom.

At a similar time to Roshchyna’s initial detainment, Maks Levin, a colleague of Romanenko, went missing. Levin’s remains were eventually discovered near Kyiv. A subsequent investigation determined that Russian soldiers were responsible for his death.

Romanenko states that she continuously checks her social media applications in anticipation of any updates. She describes it as a peculiar situation where she frequently checks online conversations and the last time she was active, hoping for a sudden change to “online now.”

While Munoz, Nemtsova, and Romanenko all desire for Roshchyna’s safe return, they also have concerns about the potential outcome.

Nemtsova informed VOA that the location of the basement where she is being held is unknown, as well as the severity of the pressure she is facing. The well-being of the individual is of utmost concern for her loved ones and supporters, and it is currently unknown if she is still alive.