On May 13, lead investigative reporter Mykhailo Tkach received a threatening message in connection to his video reporting, and he is one of several Ukrainska Pravda journalists who have recently received such messages. (Ukrainska Pravda/YouTube)
On May 13, lead investigative reporter Mykhailo Tkach received a threatening message in connection to his reporting. He is one of several Ukrainska Pravda journalists who have recently received such messages. (Screenshot: Ukrainska Pravda/YouTube)

Ukrainska Pravda staff, lead investigative reporter Mykhailo Tkach receive threats 

New York, May 16, 2024 – Ukrainian authorities must swiftly and transparently investigate recent threats sent to several journalists, including investigative reporter Mykhailo Tkach, with the independent news website Ukrainska Pravda, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On May 10, Tkach received a message on Telegram from someone claiming to be Oleksandr Slobozhenko, a Ukrainian millionaire and subject of an April 15 video investigation by Tkach into the luxurious vacations of Ukraine’s wealthy youth amid a new mobilization law, according to a May 14 statement by Ukrainska Pravda.

“I suggest we end this fuckin’ thing here and now,” the sender wrote, according to a screenshot of the message reviewed by CPJ. He offered to “make peace” with the journalist in exchange for a monetary reward and “advise[d]” him not to delay in responding.

“I know how to fight, too, and remember on the internet I’m at home,” he said.

“Ukrainian authorities must conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the intimidation of Ukrainska Pravda journalists, including Mykhailo Tkach, and ensure that members of the press are not harassed or threatened over their work,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “The work of investigative journalists is a matter of public interest and should not be discouraged — during periods of peace or war.”

On May 11, unknown users repeatedly tried to log into Tkach’s bank account, according to Ukrainska Pravda, which reported that the journalist began to receive “dozens of calls from unknown numbers and text messages with authorization codes from banking and credit institutions.”

On May 13, at least 10 Ukrainska Pravda journalists and editors received “threatening” emails, including on their personal email addresses, the statement said and Ukrainska Pravda chief editor Sevgil Musaieva told CPJ.

All of the messages were sent by “John Doe,” came from the same email address, and were signed “S.”

“I’ve written about this to Tkach before, but apparently it didn’t get through to him, so I’ll try to make the point one last time. Sometimes the ability to close your mouth at the right time can save your life. My offer to settle the matter peacefully still stands, I am waiting for a reply,” they said.

In its statement, Ukrainska Pravda said that it regarded the actions “as an attempt to influence and intimidate both Mykhailo Tkach and other employees.”

On May 14, the Kyiv City Prosecutor’s Office announced that the Shevchenkivskyi Police Department in the capital Kyiv was conducting a preliminary investigation for “influence on a journalist with the aim of preventing him from fulfilling his professional duties” and death and violence threats against a journalist in connection with their work.

“Since the messages were sent from anonymous accounts, I hope the official investigation will establish whether it was Mr. Slobozhenko or someone else trying to exploit the situation,” Tkach wrote on Facebook. He thanked “the law enforcement agencies for their prompt response” but pointed out that eight of the 12 obstructing journalistic activity cases, in which he was the victim, were “not being investigated at all.”

CPJ emailed the Shevchenkivskyi Police Department and Ukraine’s National Police for comment but did not immediately receive any replies.

CPJ contacted Slobozhenko via messaging app but did not immediately receive any response. Ukrainska Pravda chief editor Musaieva told CPJ that her outlet had also reached out to the millionaire, but he never answered.

Tkach has previously been surveilled and harassed in connection with his work. Several Ukrainian investigative journalists have faced surveillance, threats, violence, and intimidation in connection with their work since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country. 

[Editor’s note: The penultimate paragraph was updated to correct typos.]