The Twitter account managed by the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted out an image in support of the captured Russian journalists.
Update: 6:45 p.m. ET — U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki says the journalists were carrying "manned portable anti-aircraft missiles in the trunks of their cars" when they were arrested, as well as fake credentials issued by the non-existent Donetsk People's Republic, questioning their true intent. "That raised some questions about these individuals and whether they were actually journalists," she said, citing conversations with the Ukrainians on the ground.
Two Russian journalists were reportedly detained in Ukraine over the weekend, and Russia wants them back — by any means necessary — including "retaliatory measures," and hashtags.
Ukraine forces detained Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saychenko, journalists from the pro-Russian news portal LifeNews, in eastern Ukraine on Sunday. The Russian government demanded their immediate release on Tuesday, using the Twitter hashtag#SaveOurGuys and hinting it might take more invasive measures as well.
The official account of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted the hashtag on Tuesday morning. It's reminiscent of the grassroots social media campaign to save nearly 300 girls kidnapped by a terrorist group in Nigeria, which resulted in celebrities, politicians and even U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama tweeting pictures of themselves with #BringBackOurGirls. In early May, it had been tweeted nearly a million times. At time of publishing, more than 36,000 people had tweeted the new hashtag #SaveOurGuys, according to Topsy.
"Naturally, we are continuing to demand their immediate release and are waiting for this," spokesman for Russian President Dmitry Peskov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Later, Alexei Mitrofanov, the Head of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, said that Russia was committed to doing anything in its power to get the two journalists released. Mitrofanov even referred to article 55 of the Russian Bill on the Mass Media, which gives the Russian government special powers in these cases, according to him.
"Journalists are entitled to work in any conditions and they are protected by laws," he said, according to ITAR-Tass. "The Russian government may take retaliatory measures against countries which subject the rights of our citizens to discrimination."
Mitrofanov, however, added that this would be a measure of last resort.
"We have made no mention of that clause during the Ukrainian conflict yet, and this does not mean that tomorrow the Russian Federation will act according to the bill. As a matter of fact, we ought to find other ways, but such a possibility exists," he said.
Ukrainian forces initially arrested Sidyakin and Saichenko accusing them of "aiding terrorists." Viktoria Syumar, the deputy secretary of Ukraine's National Security Defense Council, said the two were carrying an anti-aircraft misssile in their vehicle, according toThe Moscow Times.
In the Ukrainian conflict, it has not been unusual for journalists to become victims of kidnappings and detentions. Simon Ostrovski, a journalist for Vice News, was one of the first cases to grab headlines around the world when he was kidnapped by pro-Russian forces. Then in early May, a group of American journalists, including BuzzFeed's Mike Giglio, were held for a few hours by pro-Russian militants.
The Committee to Protect Journalists also demanded the release of the LifeNewsreporters on Tuesday.
"We call on all sides in the conflict in Ukraine to respect journalists' status as civilians and allow them to report freely," said Muzaffar Suleymanov, the Committe's Europe and Central Asia program researcher.