A pro-Russian separatist inspects a building damaged in fighting with Ukrainian security forces in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on February 23, 2017. (Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)

Journalist missing in eastern Ukraine

June 16, 2017 12:53 PM ET

New York, June 16, 2017--Authorities in eastern Ukraine should do everything possible to locate freelance journalist Stanyslav Aseyev, who has been missing from his home in the city of Donetsk since June 3, according to news reports and his employer.

Aseyev contributed on a freelance basis to the Ukrainian service of the U.S.-government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty under the pseudonym Stanyslav Vasin, RFE/RL representatives told CPJ. He had been expected to visit his mother on June 3 and was due to file his next dispatch for RFE/RL the same day, but did neither, according to press reports. Friends and relatives who looked for him at his apartment that day reported that the door appeared to have been forced, and that a laptop computer was missing.

A friend of Aseyev's, former Ukrainian lawmaker Yegor Firsov, first reported Aseyev's disappearance on his Facebook page, and said he had information through unofficial sources in Ukraine's conflict-ridden east that the journalist was detained by pro-Russia separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR). Separatists have made no statements to confirm or deny this claim.

An unnamed source with the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU, by its Ukrainian acronym) told the independent Ukrainian television station Hromadske that the SBU was trying to locate the journalist, and added, "We know, more or less, where" he is detained. Yesterday, Firsov told RFE/RL that Aseyev's mother had stopped responding to phone calls, raising concerns about her wellbeing.

"We call on Ukrainian authorities to employ all resources at their disposal to find and ensure the safety of Stanyslav Aseyev (Vasin)," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "All parties to the conflict in east Ukraine should respect the vital role journalists play in bringing the news to the public."

In addition to RFE/RL, Aseyev has contributed to a number of Ukrainian publications, including the independent online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, the weekly magazine Ukrainski Tyzhden, and the analytical newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, all based in the capital, Kiev.

He covered daily life in the east of the country, writing under the penname Stanyslav Vasin because of the risk of reporting for western or western Ukrainian publications from areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists. At least five journalists and two media workers have been killed on the job in Ukraine's east since fighting between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russia rebels began in 2014.

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