Agents with the Ministry of State Security—the security service of Moldova’s unrecognized, Russia-backed separatist government in Transnistria—detained journalist Timofei Ilyushin in Parcani on June 24, 2024, for taking pictures of a military unit. (Screenshot: NewsMaker/YouTube)

Russian journalist Timofei Ilyushin held for 2 days in Transnistria

New York, June 28, 2024—CPJ condemns the recent detention of Russian journalist Timofei Ilyushin in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria and calls on local authorities to ensure that all journalists can work freely and safely in the territory.

On June 24, agents with the Ministry of State Security—the security service of Moldova’s unrecognized, Russia-backed separatist government in Transnistria—detained journalist Timofei Ilyushin in the village of Parcani, located west of Tiraspol, the capital, for taking pictures of a military unit, according to media reports, a statement by the Moldovan human rights organization Promo-LEX, and the journalist who spoke to CPJ. He was released on June 26.

“The detention and mistreatment allegations of Timofei Ilyushin highlights the difficulties that independent journalists have in accessing the breakaway region of Transnistria,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “All journalists should be able to travel to and report from Transnistria to keep the public informed of the current situation and local issues.”

CPJ has documented reports of at least seven journalists who have been obstructed or detained while reporting in the Transnistria region in recent years.

Ilyushin, an activist and reporter with the Russian independent news outlet Sota.Vision, traveled to Transnistria to report on the “social and political situation” in the region, he told CPJ.

State security officers told Ilyushin they wanted to charge him with espionage in favor of Ukraine’s security service but later told him that he engaged in espionage in favor of Moldova and called him a traitor in Russia, the journalist told CPJ.

“For two days, they did not feed me, did not let me drink or go to the toilet, and took away my work phone. I was psychologically pressured and threatened that I would never be released unless I turned in some alleged handlers,” Ilyushin told CPJ.

On June 26, the journalist was deported to Moldova and fined 920 Transnistrian rubles (US$59) for violating the terms of stay in the Transnistrian region. On the same day, he filed a complaint to the Moldovan police for illegal detention and obstruction of journalistic activity in the Transnistrian region.

An email from Moldova’s Bureau for Reintegration Policies, a government body that oversees the negotiation process on the Transnistrian conflict, to CPJ said “relevant national institutions” were “informed about this case of violation of human rights in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.”

Ilyushin left Russia in 2022 after being detained for violating the rules of a protest, reports said. He applied for political asylum in Moldova in April 2023, he said on Telegram.

In April 2023, Transnistrian authorities declared Ilyushin “undesirable” in the region and charged him with “undermining the constitutional order and violating the integrity of the borders” of Transnistria, according to a report by Moldova-based Russian-language news outlet NewsMaker and an April 4, 2023, Telegram post by Ilyushin. As of June 28, 2024, he still faces those charges.

“The reason for this absurd criminal case was my journalistic activity,” Ilyushin said in the post. “During my stay in Transnistria, I collected information for a story, conducted opinion polls, and wanted to make a documentary. Because of this, I had to flee to Chisinau.”

CPJ’s email to the Transnistria’s Ministry of State Security for comment did not immediately receive a reply.