A Vice filmmaker has been taken captive in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, according to city's self-declared "People's Mayor", the day US vice president Joe Biden visited the country's capital.
Simon Ostrovsky, who has previously reported for BBC Newsnight and Al Jazeera English, is being held hostage in the city by local militia, Vyacheslav Ponomarev told a press conference.
Ponomarev later appeared to retract that statement, according to Gazety.Ru, after purportedly receiving a call from the parents of the journalist.
"No one took him, no one holds him hostage, but he is with us, reporting and working," he told a news conference at the House of Slavyansk Culture.
The mayor of Slavyansk & his press sec have confirmed @SimonOstrovsky is in custody in Slavyansk. I was at the presser.— Roland Oliphant (@RolandOliphant) April 22, 2014
Ostrovsky, a dual US-Israeli citizen, works for the American edition of the youth culture magazine and website.
Speaking to HuffPost last month, Ostrovsky spoke about his method of filmmaking with Vice. "I'm sort of looking at it in terms of what I can see, where I go, instead of trying to say everything that's happening here in one report," Ostrovsky said. "I just try to tell what it's like on the ground from my own perspective, from having been there and seen what I've seen."
His employers said in a statement: "VICE News is aware of the situation and is in contact with the United States State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure the safety and security of our friend and colleague, Simon Ostrovsky."
It comes on the day US vice president Joe Biden met with Ukrainian legislators in Kiev to discuss the US response to the crisis and express hopes for peaceful elections in the divided nation. Speaking afterwards, Biden said Ukraine was a month away from what "may be the most important election in Ukrainian history".
"Also to be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now," he added. "But you have a chance. You have a chance."
He warned Russia that it faced "greater isolation" with its support for pro-Moscow militants in eastern Ukraine, saying that Putin must "stop talking and start acting" to defuse crisis.