- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

Attacked in Ukraine
It's been a rough month for stringers for The Washington Times abroad.
Last week's column described the problems of Lucy Jones, who was forced to catch a quick flight out of the Central African Republic after being accused of endangering the country with an article about a deal permitting Libya to exploit its natural resources.
Now our correspondent Natalia Feduschak in Kiev, Ukraine, has been roughed up in what might have been either a routine mugging or something more sinister.
In Ukraine, it is not always easy to tell. This is a country where certain old habits from Soviet times still persist, and where profound questions remain about tape recordings in which a voice suspected to be that of President Leonid Kuchma is heard telling aides to get rid of a troublesome journalist.
The headless body of the reporter in question, Georgy Gongadze, was found in a forest 90 miles outside the capital in the summer of 2000.
Miss Feduschak's attack wasn't nearly so dramatic, but worrisome nevertheless, and it has left her painfully bruised.
She was returning to an apartment where she has been staying in one of Kiev's best neighborhoods at about 8 p.m. last Sunday. In her purse was a tape recorder with the results of a just-completed interview on an issue that has the capacity to alarm Ukraine's rulers corruption.
A well-dressed, intelligent-looking man of about 25 entered the building behind her and followed her into the elevator. She recalls being irritated that he carried his lit cigarette into the elevator, but decided it was a short ride and better not to say anything.
She stepped off the elevator on the sixth floor and walked to her door, not noticing that the man had gotten off behind her. But as she put her key into the lock, she heard a voice beside her left ear saying, "Give me the purse."
To understand what happened next, it helps to know Miss Feduschak, who worked on our business desk for several months in 1999 before giving that up for the excitement of being a foreign correspondent.
Of Ukrainian extraction herself, she is strong both physically and emotionally, and not one to let herself be easily pushed around.

Just a mugging?
"Get away from me. I'm not giving you anything," Miss Feduschak recalls telling the man in a firm voice.
Both grabbed hold of the bag, which contained Miss Feduschak's passport, press accreditation and bank cards as well as the tape recorder and notes from the interview.
The struggle continued for what seemed like minutes, with the assailant gradually maneuvering Miss Feduschak closer and closer to a staircase. She slipped and the two of them tumbled down the stairs, he pulling her with him, she yelling loudly all the while.
Finally, a neighbor opened her apartment door and yelled down to see what was happening. At that point, the intruder jumped up and ran off with nothing to show for his trouble.
Miss Feduschak still had her purse, but was bruised from the fall. Her jeans were torn and her clothes were covered in the remains of a McDonald's take-out meal she had been carrying when the assailant struck.
It took two phone calls to the police before someone answered and took a description of the attacker. They promised to call back if they found the man, but hung up without taking Miss Feduschak's name or number.
The U.S. Embassy was better, taking a detailed account over the phone and calling back 45 minutes later to make sure she was all right.
"I would like to say this was a routine mugging by a druggie, except for two things," Miss Feduschak told us by e-mail.
"One, I had had a phone conversation the night before about a story I would like to do regarding Iraq and corruption. The next day, I had an interview in a similar vein. The incident took place several hours after the interview.
"Secondly, the attack took place in a pricey apartment building in the center of town. The neighbor, who had lived there for more than 20 years, said they had never had a similar incident.
"The problem with Ukraine is that you never know if such an attack is meant to scare you because of your professional work, and is carried out by professionals who know how to make incidents look like street crime, or if you're really just the victim of rampant crime."

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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