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Vladlena Funk
Journalist, Newscaster, Writer

Bacgrounder

by: Maria Gordon and Victor L.

Vladlena was born in the historic Russian city of Veliky Novgorod in 1977. After earning her cum laude Bachelors' and Masters Degree in Linguistics from the prestigious Yaroslav Moudry University, she joined web-based Moscow Telegraph™. as its free-lance reporter. Since the beginning of 2004 she also worked as a reporter for the NLBC Radio (620 AM) as its Moscow correspondent. In addition to the degrees in linguistics, Vladlena also has an MBA in Economics from Moscow State University.

Despite her young age she commands respect as a highly professional and conscientious print and broadcast reporter. 

Vladlena is working on her first book "Midnights in Moscow" about post-Communist era underworld in Russia.

In 2008, Vladlena gained international notoriety when she was abducted in London by the Belarussian KGB operatives and held for over a year in a high-profile US-Belarus hostage crisis.

See Vladlena on Wikipedia

 



Vladlena's Hostage Ordeal

As reported here and by major international media, in 2008-2009 Vladlena was held captive by the Belarusian KGB for over a year in a high-profile US-Belarus hostage crisis, together with American lawyer Emanuel Zeltser, director of American Russian Law Institute, a non-for-profit non-governmental public policy research and advisory organization.

On March 11, 2008, Mr. Zeltser and Vladlena had been abducted in London U.K. by the Belarusian KGB operatives. Both were drugged and secretly renditioned across international borders to Belarus aboard a private jet belonging to Boris Berezovsky, a notorious Russian “oligarch” and close friend of the Belarusian dictator Alyaksander Lukashenka. Berezovsky is wanted by the Interpol for fraud, money laundering, participation in organized crime and transnational financial crimes.

Upon landing in Minsk Belarus, Vladlena and Mr. Zeltser had been immediately detained by the personal guard of Lukashenka, Belarusian illegally elected president, according to the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Zeltser and Vladlena were transported to “Amerikanka”, the Belarusian dreaded KGB detention facility of the Stalin era. There both had been repeatedly tortured, denied critical medications and told that they would remain in captivity indefinitely unless the United States lifts sanctions against Mr. Lukashenka and Belneftekhim. Mr. Zeltser and Vladlena had been held hostage by the Belarusian KGB for 478 days and 378 days respectively.

Neither Vladlena nor Mr. Zeltser had been lawfully “arrested,” “charged” “indicted,” “tried” or “convicted” within the meaning of Belarusian or international law. Both had been unlawfully seized in London, U.K., and held hostage - - in blatant violation of the laws of nations, multilateral treaties and of Belarus’ own law. During their unlawful confinement, Vladlena and Mr. Zeltser had been subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment, denied critical medication and were told that they would remain in captivity indefinitely unless the United States lifts sanctions against Belarus and Lukashenko.

Vladlena’s and Mr. Zeltser’s seizure, torture and unlawful detention sparked international outrage and significant press coverage, apparently unexpected by the Belarusian authorities. The U.S. Department of State and members of the U.S. Congress repeatedly demanded the release of the hostages. World leaders, the European Parliament and international human rights organizations joined in the U.S. call for immediate release of Vladlena and Mr. Zeltser. Amnesty International has repeatedly issued emergency alerts respecting “torture and other ill-treatment” of Mr. Zeltser.

Ihar Rynkevich, a prominent Belarusian legal expert and Press Secretary of the Belarus Helsinki Commission said in an interview: "This is yet another shameful case for the Belarusian judiciary for which more than one generation of Belarusian legal experts will blush".

A strongly worded letter from the New York City Bar Association to Lukashenko condemned KGB abuse of Vladlena and Mr. Zeltser and demanded their immediate release. The Bar Association letter expressed “great concern about the arrests and detention of Vladlena Funk and Emanuel Zeltser and the reports of physical mistreatment of Mr. Zeltser” and noted that this conduct is inconsistent with Belarus’ obligations under international agreements, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Bar Association letter noted that the charge, which the KGB claimed to have brought against Mr. Zeltser and Vladlena "appears to have no basis to it", lacks "any explanation or detail" and "concerns have thus been reported that this is a fabricated charge, created to justify their unlawful detention.”

Mr. Zeltser’s and Vladlena’s abduction, detention and mistreatment in the KGB captivity was undertaken to coerce the United States to lift sanctions against Lukashenka and other members of the Belarusian government, and against Belarusian petrochemical concern Belneftekhim, owned by these individuals. As such, Belarus’s actions were and remain gross violations of the law of nations, and universally accepted norms of the international law of human rights, including laws prohibiting hostage taking and state-sponsored terrorism.

Yielding to demands of international community, Belarusian dictator Lukashenka had finally released Vladlena on March 20, 2009, and Mr. Zeltser on June 30, 2009, when a delegation of the members of the U.S. Congress traveled to Belarus to meet with Lukashenka regarding the hostage crisis.

US Chargé d'Affaires in Belarus, Jonathan Moore commented after their release: “At no time have the Belarusian authorities ever provided any indication that the charges against Mr. Zeltser and Vladlena were legitimate. As a result, I can only conclude that the charges in this case are thoroughly without merit; and are the result of extra-legal motivation."

 


Irina Khalip, arrested and savagely beaten by the KGB while reporting live for Echo Moscow

Iryna Khalip, world renowned Belarusian investigative correspondent and human rights champion, winner of 2009 Courage in Journalism Award, wrote to Vladlena upon her release: “Your KGB detention can only be compared with the recent Somalia pirates’ abduction of the Ukrainian vessel, and is yet another example of Lukashenko’s government-sponsored hostage taking and violations of all norms of international behavior.” Iryna, the wife of Andrey Sannikov, opposition presidential contender, was savagely beaten by the KGB operatives and imprisoned in “Amerikanka”, the same facility, in which Vladlena and Mr. Zeltser had been held. She is charged with “inciting of mass disorders” and facing up to 15 years behind bars.

U.S. Department of State denied making any concessions to Lukashenka, and repeatedly said that it does not use its citizens as “bargaining chips”. However, many in Belarus still believe that U.S. cut a deal with Lukashenko, inducing him to release hostages in exchange for IMF credits. Appearing on Russian TV network, NTV, Anatoly Lebedko, Chairman of the Belarusian United Popular Party said: “Washington was forced to pay ransom for its citizen by providing Lukashenka the IMF credits, pure and simple; in essence, this is hostage-taking, the practice, which is wide-spread in Belarus elevated to the new level, where Lukashenko is not only sending a political message but demands monetary compensation for human freedom.” Lebedko also paid dearly for his comments. He is now behind bars in the KGB detention despite the world's indignation and new recent US and EU sanctions against Lukashenko's regime.

 

 

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