By Mario Trujillo - 04/23/14 07:53 AM EDT
The State Department on Wednesday condemned the kidnapping of a U.S. journalist by pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine.
State spokesperson Jen Psaki called on Russia's help in securing the immediate release of the VICE News journalist, Simon Ostrovsky.
A spokeswoman for the pro-Russian separatists confirmed on Wednesday that the journalist was being held at a government building seized last week.
"We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine," Psaki added. "We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation in and around Slovyansk."
Stella Khorosheva, a representative of the pro-Russian group, told The Associated Press the journalist was fine but he was being held because he was "suspected of bad activities," and would be investigated.
Vice News said in a statement Tuesday that it had contacted the State Department and other authorities to secure Ostrovsky's safety.
"VICE News is aware of the situation and is in contact with the US State Department and other appropriate government authorities to secure the safety and security of our friend and colleague, Simon Ostrovsky," the news outlet said in a statement.
The kidnapping comes as Pro-Russian separatists have taken over a number of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine. Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union came to an initial agreement to de-escalate the situation in exchange for amnesty for the protesters last week, but cracks immediately emerged in the deal.
The United States has warned Russia to hold up its end of the agreement or it could face broader sanctions.