Dmytro Khilyuk

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Khilyuk was abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine in early March 2022 and has reportedly been held in Russian pretrial detention ever since. 

Russian soldiers detained Khilyuk in the village of Kozarovychi, north of Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on March 3, 2022, soon after Russia launched a full-scale invasion against Ukraine, according to the Media Initiative for Human Rights, a local press group, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, a Ukrainian trade group, and a relative of the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

On March 1, 2022, Khilyuk, a reporter for the independent Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, had written that Russian troops were occupying his village in a post on his personal Facebook page, where he frequently posted commentary on current events and had about 450 followers.

Khilyuk’s relative, who asked that her name not be published to protect her privacy, told CPJ that the journalist called her on March 3 and said Russian soldiers had searched the home he shared with his parents, seized their phones and SIM cards, and looked at his posts on social media.

After the search, Khilyuk’s home was hit by a Russian missile, forcing him and his parents to spend the night with their neighbors, according to the journalist’s relative and the Media Initiative for Human Rights.

The relative told CPJ that she lost contact with Khilyuk after March 3, 2022, and local residents in Kozarovychi told her that the journalist and his father were detained at a Russian base near their home on about March 4. In November 2023, Oksana Mykhalevych, the lawyer hired by Khilyuk’s family to represent him, told CPJ over the phone that people who detained Khilyuk and his father had put headbands over their eyes and fired shots into the air to intimidate them.

Russian forces accused Khilyuk, who covers the Ukrainian legal system and high-profile court cases, of communicating with the Ukrainian military and law enforcement agencies, according to the Media Initiative for Human Rights. 

Khilyuk had been texting UNIAN editor-in-chief Mykhailo Gannitsky privately since the Russian occupation of his village about his shattered house and empty stores in the village, but did not pass on any information about Russian troops, according to UNIAN.

Russian authorities released Khilyuk’s father on March 10, 2022, and took the remaining detainees, including Khilyuk, to the nearby town of Dymer, according to the journalist’s relative and the Media Initiative for Human Rights, which reported that other captives who were later released recognized Khilyuk among those being held in an office building in Dymer.

On May 22, 2022, the journalist’s relative told CPJ that she had official confirmation that Khilyuk had been detained by Russian forces, but did not give further details.

Khilyuk’s parents received a single letter from him in 2022. “Dear Mom and Dad, I am alive, healthy, and well," the letter said, according to a report by Ukrainian human rights organization Zmina. 

On September 12, 2022, independent Ukrainian television station Hromadske reported that Khilyuk was detained in a pretrial detention center in the Russian western city of Bryansk.

In a video report published by Ukrainian news channel ICTV on October 11, 2022, Khilyuk’s relatives are seen saying that they do not have any information about the journalist’s whereabouts. 

In May 2023, Iryna Pryanishnikova, a spokeswoman for the Kyiv regional police, told UNIAN that Khilyuk’s case was transferred to Ukraine’s SBU security service.

In July 2023, global press freedom group Reporters Without Borders published an investigation suggesting that Khilyuk was held in the western Russian region of Vladimir, near Moscow region, either in prison No. 7 near Kovrov or in prison No. 6 in Melekhovo, and that he was seen twice in his new prison in late May 2023. 

In a message sent to his family in early June 2023, Khilyuk wrote: “I am OK. I love you. Tell UNIAN that I am in prison in Russia," according to Reporters Without Borders.  

In September 2023, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said that Russia had been refusing to provide any information about Khilyuk’s location or situation. 

In October 2023, CPJ emailed the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office for comment but did not receive any replies.