Russian journalist detained, beaten in eastern Ukraine

New York, June 17, 2015–A correspondent for the independent Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta was obstructed and briefly detained by the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, according to news reports. Pavel Kanygin, a special correspondent for the newspaper, said he was beaten and interrogated in custody and then forced to leave the country, the reports said.

“CPJ condemns the detention, harassment, and beating by the Donetsk People’s Republic of Pavel Kanygin, who after all was seeking accreditation to do his job of reporting on the conflict in eastern Ukraine,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Obstructing a journalist, attacking him, and throwing him out of the territory only reinforces the notion that the Donetsk People’s Republic has something to hide.”

Kanygin, who has written multiple reports on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, spent a few days in Kiev, the capital, then went to the DNR press office in Donetsk on Tuesday so he could apply for accreditation to report on the pro-Russia separatist-controlled territory, Novaya Gazeta Deputy Editor Sergey Sokolov told CPJ.

At the press office, DNR separatists searched him and found a Ukrainian journalist’s business card in Kanygin’s possession, according to Novaya Gazeta. The separatists called him a criminal and accused him of working for Ukrainian media, the report said. The newspaper said that Kanygin was forced to undergo a blood test, which the separatists told him was positive for drugs. Novaya Gazeta also cited Kanygin as saying that the DNR officers called him a “druggie” and accused him of receiving a salary from both the U.S. State Department and the Ukrainian Security Service.

Novaya Gazeta‘s senior managers, including Editor-in-Chief Dmitry Muratov, said the allegations against Kanygin were fabricated.

DNR separatists interrogated him and beat him while he was in custody, the journalist told Novaya Gazeta upon his release. “An officer pointed a gun at me and told me that if I move, he will shoot me,” he said. “Then he asked me who I am for–them or the ‘ukropy’ [a derogatory term for Ukrainians used by the separatists]. When I told him I am for peace, he hit me in the eye with his fist.”

DNR separatists held Kanygin for five hours after which they drove him to the Matveev Kurgan checkpoint on Ukraine’s border with Russia’s Rostov region, and released him, according to Novaya Gazeta.