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Human rights reporter accuses UN group of abandoning her in Ukraine amid Russian invasion


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Human rights journalist Sara Cincurova slammed the United Nations’ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Thursday after she said the agency abandoned her on a train in Ukraine amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country.

 “I’m a freelance reporter and was invited as a guest to a press trip you organized for me in Kramatorsk and confirmed at 8 p.m. yesterday,” she tweeted Thursday. “At 5:54, while I was on the night train, you canceled my trip by WhatsApp and told me you will not even pick me up!”

She said she was left alone, without body armor, and told it was up to her where to disembark from the train “while hostilities were going on all around.” Her whereabouts could not immediately be independently confirmed.

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Spokespersons for the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the situation.

Cincurova said she got off “in the middle of nowhere” and found another train headed to Kharkhiv, about 300 miles east of Kiev, near the border with Russia. The city is also more than 120 miles away from where she said she was supposed to rendezvous for the UN press trip. She did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Ukrainian servicemen are seen next to a destroyed armoured vehicle, which they said belongs to the Russian army, outside Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. 

Ukrainian servicemen are seen next to a destroyed armoured vehicle, which they said belongs to the Russian army, outside Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Maksim Levin )

“I demand you evacuate me safely,” she wrote in a tweet directed at the UN’s Ukraine offices. “Not only should you provide help to human rights defenders, you should not abandon them alone in the middle of a warzone.”

The Ukrainian government released images that show Kharkhiv saw an explosion of violence Thursday, with disabled vehicles blocking the streets, and the body of a man they identified as a Russian soldier near the smoldering husk of a damaged tank.

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Cincurova, a native of Slovakia, became a self-trained journalist in her mid- to late-20s and quickly began covering international human rights news, according to Nate Carlisle, a Utah-based investigative reporter who mentored her last year.

“She’s in a hotel with other freelance journalists, trying to figure out how to go back to Slovakia,” he told Fox News Digital Thursday. “[There’s] no easy answer at this moment, given the airports aren’t flying. There are trains, it sounds like, but it’s not clear to me how often they’re running, if there are seats available.”

And from where she’s sheltering, he said, the only trains available may be running only to Kiev – the Ukrainian capital where explosions could be heard throughout the day.

A Ukrainian soldier passes by houses in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have ordered a full military mobilization amid growing fears in the West that Russia is planning to invade the neighboring country. The announcement on Saturday came amid a spike in violence along the line of contact between Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russia rebels in recent days. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

A Ukrainian soldier passes by houses in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have ordered a full military mobilization amid growing fears in the West that Russia is planning to invade the neighboring country. The announcement on Saturday came amid a spike in violence along the line of contact between Ukrainian forces and the pro-Russia rebels in recent days. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)
(AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

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Ukrainian health officials said at least 137people had been killed in the first day of Russia’s invasion – with at least 300 more wounded.

Carlisle said he spoke to Cincurova earlier Thursday and that she said she was “safe for the moment.”

“As safe as anyone in Kharkhiv is,” he said. 

And as of Thursday afternoon, it remained unclear whether the other trapped journalists were also part of the UN press trip.

Carlisle said he met Cincurova through a State Department-sponsored mentorship and cultural exchange program last year that paired a half-dozen journalists in Utah with foreign reporters.

He described her as “very intelligent” and an eager learner, and said she broke into the industry on her own, without formal training.

“Very quickly, she was covering some of the refugee crises from North Africa, going across the sea to Europe and America,” he said. 
 

Ukrainian servicemen sit atop armored personnel carriers driving on a road in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences you have never seen." (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ukrainian servicemen sit atop armored personnel carriers driving on a road in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences you have never seen.” (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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A veteran investigative journalist, Carlisle said he helped train Cincurova how to mine government documents for newsworthy information.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion overnight Wednesday, prompting new sanctions from the U.S. and allies. President Biden announced Thursday afternoon that 7,000 additional American troops would deploy to Germany.

But he declined to answer questions about why the sanctions did not target the personal wealth of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, or commit to cutting Russia off from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, the world’s main international banking network.

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