A file image of journalist Oleh Baturyn, who said he has received "a series" of threatening messages via social media. (Photo: Serhii Nikitenko)

Ukrainian journalist Oleh Baturyn receives threats online after report on politician

New York, January 9, 2024—Ukrainian authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into violent threats made against journalist Oleh Baturyn, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On December 31, 2023, the Center of Journalistic Investigations, a Ukrainian independent investigative outlet, published a report, which said that Valery Saltykov, a member of Kherson Regional Council in southern Ukraine, had recently registered his business under Russian jurisdiction and received a Russian passport.

Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting over the Kherson region, parts of which were occupied by Russia after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The article did not have a byline but Baturyn posted it on Facebook that day, ”after which, a wave of threats and hate began,” he told CPJ.

Baturyn said he received “a series”of threatening messages from approximately five different senders via social media, which he reported to the police on January 4. These included rape threats and homophobic comments on Telegram and Messenger from anonymous and named accounts, according to CPJ’s review.

“I associate the threats exclusively with the publication about Valery Saltykov since the authors of these messages directly write that Valery Saltykov is a very good person and I should be raped and mutilated” for the 31 December report about him, Baturyn told CPJ.

“Ukrainian authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the violent threats made against journalist Oleh Baturyn and ensure that he remains safe,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Baturyn’s work is of public interest and he should be able to do it without fear of reprisal.”

Baturyn also shared with CPJ a screenshot of a fake Telegram account with his name, photograph, and phone number, and the message “I’m looking for guys for sex,” which he said had been widely shared online since early January. Baturyn said he was afraid that the creators of the fake account could use it to share false information with “Russians or representatives of the occupation administration” who would “think that they are writing to me.”

“Since Valery Saltykov himself is under occupation and has many friends, relatives and acquaintances in other parts of Ukraine, I have reason to worry about my life and health,” he told CPJ. 

On January 6, the police called Baturyn and said that an investigator would contact him soon, the journalist told CPJ. 

“The investigator himself has not contacted me yet. If he doesn’t get in touch tomorrow, I’ll go to the police on Wednesday to get a document on the opening of criminal proceedings,” Baturyn told CPJ on January 8. 

Baturyn said that in 2019 he reported threats made against him in relation to his work to the police but they refused to register his statement.

Baturyn, who has been reporting on the impact of the war on the Kherson region, was detained by Russian forces for eight days in March 2022 in the southern Ukrainian city of Kakhovka.

CPJ emailed Saltykov and the Ukrainian National Police for comment but did not receive any replies.