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Ukraine arrests journalist after call to dodge draft

February 8, 2015

Ukraine’s security service arrested a journalist on treason charges Sunday after he posted a video online urging people to dodge the country’s new military draft, his wife and officials said.

Ruslan Kotsaba — a television journalist from the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk — was ordered held in custody for 60 days pending investigations, his wife Uliana wrote on Facebook.

A senior official at Ukraine’s SBU security agency, Markian Lubkivskyi, wrote online that Kotsaba was detained on suspicion of treason, an accusation that carries a possible 15-year jail sentence.

Kotsaba published a video on YouTube last month denouncing a new round of military call-ups by Kiev to boost its forces fighting pro-Russian rebels in the east.

“I would prefer to go to prison than to participate in this fratricidal war,” Kotsaba said in the footage, which was viewed more than 300,000 times.

“I refuse to be drafted and call on everyone who is called up to refuse,” he said.

After 10 months of conflict, opinion is split in war-weary Ukraine over the latest government plan to mobilise around 50,000 men.

A senior official has admitted that almost 40 percent of men called up to serve in Kotsaba’s home region have left Ukraine.

Ukraine is desperately trying to bolster its forces as it accuses Moscow of pouring in troops and weapons in support of the pro-Russian rebellion.

Fighting in east Ukraine has killed some 5,400 people and wounded around 12,000 more since April 2014.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.