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Journalists attacked at Kiev rally; police fail to intervene

Journalists in Kiev protest police officers' failure to intervene in an assault against two reporters. A demonstrator holds a photo of a man said to have been among the assailants. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

New York, May 20, 2013--Several assailants beat two reporters covering an opposition protest outside Ukrainian Interior Ministry headquarters in Kiev on Saturday in view of police officers who failed to intervene, according to local and international press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the beating and the inaction of police, and it calls on authorities to hold both assailants and officers fully accountable under the law.

"It's outrageous that such a beating could take place in front of Ukraine's main law enforcement building, while officers sworn to uphold the law stood by," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Authorities need to demonstrate that the law applies to everyone by investigating this deplorable episode, apprehending the attackers and holding the officers responsible for their negligence."

Assailants punched and kicked Vladislav Sodel, a photographer with the Moscow-based daily Kommersant, and his wife, Olga Snitsarchuk, a reporter with Kiev's Channel Five television. Sodel said they repeatedly called out for help from nearby police but their pleas were ignored, Ukrainska Pravda reported. Snitsarchuk was treated at a local hospital for a torn lip and multiple bruises, while Sodel was treated for bruises on his arms, press reports said.

The assailants had clashed with opposition protesters before attacking Snitsarchuk and Sodel, the independent news website Ukrainska Pravda reported. Images and video taken at the scene show more than a half dozen police officers were nearby. The journalists said they took images images of the assailants.

The Interior Ministry said on its website today that authorities are investigating police officers' conduct during Saturday's clashes. Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko promised Ukrainian lawmakers that the journalists' assailants would be apprehended, the ministry's website said. Dozens of local journalists rallied in front of the Interior Ministry headquarters today to demand that Zakharchenko step down.

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