Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko stands inside a defendants' cage during a November 28, 2016, hearing at a court in Moscow. Sushchenko was sentenced to 12 years in prison for espionage by a Moscow city court on June 4, 2018. (Vasily Maximov/AFP)

Russian court sentences Ukrainian journalist to 12 years for espionage

June 4, 2018 12:58 PM ET

New York, June 4, 2018--Russian authorities should immediately release Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. A Moscow city court sentenced Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent for Ukraine's state news agency, Ukrinform, to 12 years in a high-security prison on espionage charges today, Russian and Ukrainian media reported.

Sushchenko has maintained his innocence since being arrested in late 2016. His employer, Ukrinform, as well as the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence denied the accusations. Sushchenko's defense attorney, Mark Feygin, wrote on Twitter today that the journalist would appeal.

"Russian authorities handed out a harsh sentence to Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko after a speedy trial without producing a shred of evidence of their claims," said Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator. "We call on Russia to release Sushchenko immediately and drop all charges against him."

Russian security officers detained Sushchenko on September 30, 2016, in Moscow upon his arrival from Paris, CPJ reported at the time. He had traveled to Russia on vacation and planned to visit friends and relatives there, according to his employer.

Mariana Betsa, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, demanded Sushchenko's immediate release, calling the verdict "unlawful."

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