Paris, March 22, 2022 – Russian forces in Ukraine must immediately cease detaining journalists and should ensure that members of the press can cover the war in Ukraine freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Tuesday, March 22, the independent Ukrainian television station Hromadske announced that Viktoria Roshchina, a reporter with the station who went missing on March 11, had been released the previous day.
That statement says she had been detained in Russia-held territory by “occupiers” who had forced her under pressure from Russian security forces to record a video–posted on pro-Russian media and social media outlets–in which she denied being held by Russian forces. The statement said that the journalist would “tell the whole truth about the detention and captivity herself in the near future.”
Separately, on Monday morning, unidentified armed men briefly detained four journalists with the Ukrainian news agency MV in the southeastern Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, according to a statement by the agency and a report by the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists (NUJU).
“Russian security forces and anyone acting on their behalf must immediately stop detaining journalists covering the war in Ukraine,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Multiple journalists have gone missing or been detained under murky circumstances since the war began, and these incidents only serve to harass the press and stifle independent reporting.”
Roshchina, who covered the Russian invasion in eastern and southern Ukraine, disappeared while on her way to the southeastern city of Mariupol, as CPJ documented at the time. She is currently in Ukrainian-controlled territory and is heading to meet with her relatives, according to the Hromadske statement.
Separately, at about 6 a.m. on Monday, unidentified men with weapons detained MV executive editor Yevgeniya Boryan, journalists Yuliya Olkhovskaya and Lyubov Chayka, and retired MV publisher Mykhaylo Kumok at their homes in Melitopol, and took them to an undisclosed location, according to that report by the journalist’s union, quoting MV General-Director Anna Medvid, and a Facebook post by Kumok’s daughter, Tatiana, who was also among the detained.
Their captors held the journalists, Tatiana, and Kumok’s wife, gave them “preventive talks” to discourage their reporting, and then released them, according to another report by the NUJU.
The men also seized journalists’ personal phones and Olkhovskaya and Chayka’s computer servers, according to that report and a Facebook post by NUJU head Serhiy Tomilenko. CPJ could not determine whether the journalists’ devices were returned upon their release.
Tatiana wrote that the men, whom she referred to as “occupiers,” were “probably trying to get cooperation” from the journalists; the report by MV identified the men as “representatives” of the occupation government. Russian forces previously detained Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fyodorov on March 11 for several days, according to reports.
Quoting Medvid, the journalists’ union wrote that the MV editorial office was searched last week by unspecified people. Medvid said that those people “want us to be loyal and supportive. I did not agree, and we parted.”
Previously, Oleh Baturyn, a journalist for the Ukrainian newspaper Novyi Den, was released on March 20 after he went missing for eight days in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Kakhovka; CPJ could not immediately determine who was responsible for his abduction.
CPJ emailed the Russian Ministry of Defense but did not receive any response.