Vasily Muravitsky

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Ukraine’s state security service (SBU) on August 1, 2017 detained Vasily Muravitsky, a reporter and columnist based in Ukraine’s west-central city of Zhytomyr, on anti-state charges, according to news reports.

The general prosecutor’s press secretary wrote on Facebook that Muravistsky was arrested on charges of state treason, infringement of territorial integrity of Ukraine, incitement of hatred, and support for terrorist organizations.

The SBU in an August 2 statement accused the journalist of preparing and distributing “anti-Ukraine materials” on six news websites “administered from Russia and the temporarily-occupied territories” of Ukraine, and acting as an “information mercenary” working on orders from Moscow. The statement cited Muravitsky’s contract with the Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya.

Muravitsky denied the charges against him in an interview with the independent Ukrainian website Strana. In the interview, given while in custody, Muravitsky said his contract with Rossiya Segodnya was a standard one used by “hundreds of journalists around the world,” and that he had not been presented with evidence to justify the accusation that his articles constitute state treason.

If convicted, Muravitsky, who reports on politics, the annexation of Crimea, and the fighting in Donbass, faces up to 15 years in prison.

On August 11, the SBU published on Facebook a list of articles by Muravitsky that allegedly were proof that the journalist “acted precisely in the interests of the aggressor state.” Many of the links to the articles were broken when CPJ checked them.

Sergiy Tomilenko, the head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, told CPJ on August 22, 2017, that authorities had not provided any evidence of Muravitsky’s guilt.