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Russia detains Ukrainian journalist for ‘spying’

October 3, 2016

Russia’s FSB security service on Monday said it had detained a Ukrainian journalist for spying, sparking the latest diplomatic scandal in the bitter feud between Kiev and Moscow.

Journalist Roman Sushchenko — who has worked for Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform since 2002 — was detained in Moscow “while conducting espionage activities”, the FSB told Interfax news agency.

Russia’s security service said that Sushchenko, 47, is a serving colonel in Ukraine’s military intelligence and was “collecting state secrets… that could damage the defence capability of the state if leaked abroad.”

Pro-Western Kiev blasted the allegations and portrayed Sushchenko’s detention as the latest aggression in the stand-off over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“Russia has definitively condemned itself to isolation from the civilised world,” Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman wrote on Facebook.

He slammed the detention as “further evidence of massive and systematic abuses of human rights through persecution, arrests and trials on trumped-up charges.”

– Latest detainee –

Sushchenko is the latest Ukrainian citizen Kiev says has been illegally detained by Russia.

In May, former army pilot Nadiya Savchenko was released by Moscow in a prisoner swap after being found guilty of the murder of two Russian journalists in east Ukraine at a high-profile trial that drew international condemnation.

The Ukrinform news agency said Sushchenko — who works as its Paris correspondent — was detained on September 30 after he arrived in Moscow on holiday.

Russian lawyer Mark Feigin, who defended Savchenko, told AFP that he was being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Kiev called for the Sushchenko’s immediate release and demanded Russian authorities allow Ukrainian diplomats to access to him.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the detention was “the standard security agency work” and said that Sushchenko did not have permission to work as a journalist in Russia.

“There is not and cannot be any campaign against the Ukrainian media or any other foreign media working in Russia,” Peskov told journalists.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also seen a sharp spike in the number of people put on trial for espionage and treason as it has pushed broader East-West ties to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

A Russian court last year sentenced an elderly Ukrainian citizen to six years in prison for allegedly attempting to smuggle sensitive missile defence technology out of the country.


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