Moscow: Two journalists working for Russian state television, who were released after three days of detention in Ukraine, on Tuesday claimed that Ukrainian nationalists beat them and extorted money.
Nikita Konashenkov and Yevgeny Davydov, who work for the channel Zvezda (Star) operated by Russia`s defence ministry, said they were detained at a checkpoint in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on Saturday and taken to the basement of a building where they were questioned by members of Right Sector, an ultra-nationalist movement.
They said the Ukrainian nationalists threatened to kill them and demanded $200,000 for their freedom.
"If they didn`t like my answers, they hit me," said Davydov, who came to the press conference from a hospital where he was being treated for a ruptured ear drum. Both young men had a black eye.
In another twist, Zvezda director Alexei Pimanov said the questioning was heard in Moscow via telephone and recorded, which was also how the channel found out the reporters` location before contacting Ukrainian officials.
A Right Sector spokesman confirmed that the two Russian reporters were detained over the weekend and said they were handed over to the Ukrainian security service (SBU).
Two other journalists from the same channel were released from Ukrainian custody on Monday after being held on suspicion of collecting intelligence about government army operations.
Journalists have been targeted by all sides in the conflict during nearly two months of bloodshed in the east, with Ukrainian and Western reporters also being held by pro-Russian rebels.