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Ukraine summons Russian consul over reporter’s arrest

October 6, 2016

Ukraine on Thursday summoned the Russian consul after Moscow detained one of its state media reporters for alleged espionage.

Meanwhile populist and nationalist factions in Ukraine’s parliament pushed for the introduction of travel visas for Russians in retaliation for Roman Sushchenko’s arrest.

Russia on Monday announced the detention of Sushchenko — a 47-year-old correspondent for the Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform who is usually based in Paris — for alleged espionage.

The case has only further escalated tensions between the two former Soviet neighbours as a 29-month pro-Russian separatist war rages in eastern Ukraine that Kiev accuses Moscow of backing — an accusation Russia denies.

Ukrainian foreign ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa told AFP that the Russia consul was summoned to give an explanation as to why Kiev officials had been denied access to the reporter in his Moscow detention centre.

“We summoned the Russian consul for an explanation about why we are still being denied access to Ukrainian citizen” Sushchenko, Betsa said.

“We have sent a note to the Russian foreign ministry, the FSB security service, and their human rights ombudsman,” she said.

“Until now, there has been no response at all. This is a direct violation of human rights and international law.”

Around 30 Ukrainian reporters picketed the Moscow embassy in Kiev on Thursday in protest over Sushchenko’s arrest.

Russia’s security service claimed the reporter was 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 branded the detention the latest aggression in the stand-off over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and alleged support for the conflict that has left more than 9,600 people dead.

Some Ukrainian lawmakers are pushing for the introduction of travel visas for Russians in reprisal for the latest diplomatic scandal.

But the measure is unlikely to pass even if it is put to a vote on Thursday because Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s party and its majority allies oppose the step.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin warned on Wednesday that the move carried risks because Russia might well retaliate.

Russia has no ambassador in Kiev because of Ukraine’s refusal to accept Moscow’s latest candidate for the post.

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