Russia’s Foreign Ministry has banned U.S. investigative journalist Simon Ostrovsky from working in Russia. On June 4, it denied a press visa for Ostrovsky, an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist best known for his coverage of the Ukraine crisis for Vice News.
The denial came only days after Ostrovsky contacted Russian soldier Bato Dambayev—who fought in Ukraine as part of the 37th Motorized Infantry Brigade—as part of the journalist’s effort to prove that Russian soldiers have fought alongside Russian-backed separatists.
Shortly after the February 2015 signing of the Minsk cease-fire agreement,separatist forces scored an overwhelming victory by capturing Debaltseve, a city that links the railways between Luhansk and Donetsk. The reason was simple: These forces got help from enlisted Russian soldiers and their heavy machinery, including the 5th Tank Brigade from Ulan-Ude, Buryatia and the37th Motorized Infantry Brigade from Kyakhta, Buryatia.
Using images that Dambayev posted to social media, Ostrovsky retraced the soldier’s journey from his Siberian hometown of Ulan-Ude to Vuhlehirsk, a small Ukrainian city 12.9 kilometers from Debaltseve. Locals remember seeing Russian soldiers of non-European appearance in Vuhlerhirsk on February 18, which coincides with the battle of Debaltseve.
The Kremlin’s involvement with the war in Ukraine is politically sensitive…