New York, October 22, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the announcement by Russia-backed militants in eastern Ukraine that they intend to hold Stanyslav Aseyev, a reporter for the U.S.-backed broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in a penal colony for 15 years, as reported by his employer.
According to a report posted today by the Donetsk News Agency, a news website administered by supporters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, militants declared Aseyev “guilty of espionage, extremism, and public calls to violate the territory’s integrity” in August, but announced the decision only today. He was handed a sentence of 15 years in a penal colony, followed by a ban from working in journalism for two years and six months, according to that report.
“Stanyslav Aseyev is neither a spy nor extremist. He is a journalist who was providing a rare glimpse into the life of ordinary people in the area controlled by Russia-backed separatists,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “The so-called court that convicted Aseyev is not legitimate; he should be released immediately and allowed to return to the Kyiv-controlled area of Ukraine.”
Aseyev, who contributed to RFE/RL and various Ukrainian news outlets under the pseudonym Stanislav Vasin, went missing on June 2, 2017, as CPJ reported at the time. He was one of only a few independent Ukrainian journalists to remain in Donetsk after Russia-backed separatists seized control of the regional capital and declared their own “People’s Republic” in the spring of 2014, according to CPJ reporting.
In a statement today, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the announcement, adding, “[Aseyev] is a journalist and was only trying to raise awareness about the situation in eastern Ukraine. The ruling is an attempt by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk to silence his powerful, independent voice.”