Journalists held, questioned in Crimea, mainland Ukraine

New York, May 19, 2014–Ukrainian authorities are holding two foreign journalists, while five other journalists were interrogated in Crimea by Russian authorities over the weekend, according to news reports. 

On Sunday, Ukrainian soldiers in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, detained Russian journalist Oleg Sidyakin and cameraman Marat Saychenko, both with the pro-Kremlin news portal Life News, during a raid on armed separatists, news reports said. Sidyakin and Saychenko were accused of aiding armed separatists, who were also detained in the raid. The soldiers later handed the journalists over to the SBU, the Ukrainian national security service, in Kiev, where they are being interrogated, Valentin Nalivaychenko, head of SBU, said, according to news reports.

“Ukrainian authorities should release Oleg Sidyakin and cameraman Marat Saychenko immediately,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program researcher. “We call on all sides in the conflict in Ukraine to respect journalists’ status as civilians and allow them to report freely.”

Also over the weekend, at least five journalists were detained and interrogated for up to six hours in Simferopol, Crimea, where they were covering or preparing to cover mass rallies organized by the Crimean Tatar minority commemorating the 70th anniversary of the forced deportation of Crimean Tatars from the region. Authorities recently banned protests, saying they would spread tension, news reports said.

On Sunday, agents with Russia’s Investigative Committee interrogated Cengiz Kizgin, Turkish reporter for the Crimean broadcaster Otkritiy Krymskiy Kanal, and his Ukrainian colleague, Osman Pashayev, after they were detained by a local militia supportive of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Simferopol-based Center for Investigative Journalism reported. The journalists were questioned without a lawyer present, and their equipment and footage were seized. The center said that Pashayev was summoned and interrogated today by agents with the Investigative Committee. After he was released, Pashayev left Crimea to file a complaint with Ukrainian prosecutors, news reports said.

On Saturday, Waclaw Radziwinowicz, a journalist with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza; Nikolai Semenoi, a journalist with the Ukrainian newspaper Den; and photojournalist Lenyara Abibulayeva, were detained for six hours during which they were interrogated by the Russian security service, FSB, according to reports.