Paris, April 12, 2022 — In response to Russian forces’ release of Ukrainian journalist Iryna Dubchenko, the Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday issued the following statement calling on Russian authorities to stop detaining members of the press:
“However great the relief of Ukrainian journalist Iryna Dubchenko’s release, Russian forces never should have detained her in the first place,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Russian authorities must stop detaining journalists in Ukraine, and should immediately release Dmytro Khilyuk, who has been held captive for over a month.”
On March 26, Russian forces searched Dubchenko’s home in the southeastern city of Rozivka, said they “knew everything” about her journalism and also accused her of harboring a Ukrainian soldier, and took her to the city of Donetsk, which is controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
On Monday, April 11, several of Dubchenko’s friends and family members wrote on Facebook that the journalist had been released from Russian custody on April 8. Her release was confirmed to CPJ in an email from Levan Shishinashvili, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian military administration in Zaporizhzhia province, which includes Rozivka.
“We did not say anything publicly right away, we waited until she was safe,” her friend Konstantin Alekseenko wrote.
In Donetsk, Russian soldiers took Dubchenko, a correspondent for the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN and contributor to other local outlets, to a building that the separatists called their Ministry of State Security, where they said the journalist would face punishment for allegedly collaborating with Ukrainian forces, Alekseenko wrote. However, Russian forces then transferred the journalist to Starobesheve, a city in the southeast of the Donetsk region, where she was held along with volunteers and wives of Ukrainian soldiers until her release, Alekseenko wrote.
Shishinashvili, who spoke to the journalist on Monday, told CPJ that Russian authorities continued accusing Dubchenko of harboring a Ukrainian soldier, and also questioned her about her journalistic work.
After her release on April 8, Dubchenko returned to Rozivka and then traveled with her parents to the city of Zaporizhzhia in the evening of April 10, Shishinashvili told CPJ. He said the journalist was feeling well when he spoke with her.
At least one other Ukrainian journalist, Dmytro Khilyuk, remains in Russian custody; he was detained in early March.
CPJ emailed the Russian Ministry of Defense, but did not receive any reply.