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Ukrainian government conducting war against Russian journalists, say experts

June 19, 2014, 17:52 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara


© ITAR-TASS/Konstantin Sazonchik

MOSCOW, June 19. /ITAR-TASS/. Two Russian newsmen who worked for the Moscow-based Rossiya’24 channel, a subsidiary of the All-Russia State Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), will be buried in Moscow Friday. Reporter Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin were killed in one of the many instances where the Ukrainian military opened fire from mortars in one of the innumerable episodes of a dragged-out punitive operation in the east of the country.

Russian politicians and experts believe that Kiev authorities are crudely encroaching on the international norms for defense of reporters’ right to exercising their professional activity.

“This is far from the first case of a foreign correspondent dying in Ukraine,” Sergei Brilyov, a deputy director of the VGTRK and the host of a popular Saturday news and analysis show, told ITAR-TASS. In May, the Italian photographer Andrea Rochelli and his Russian assistant Andrei Mironov died.

In June alone, a total of four reporters working for the Zvezda channel, as well as crews from Russia Today and LifeNews channels were subjected to illegitimate detentions and the crewmembers were beaten up by the servicemen of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Service, Brilyov said.

“That‘s why it is not at all accidental by any means that the majority of foreign reporters subjected to persecution in Ukraine are Russian citizens,” he told ITAR-TASS.

“Politicians in Kiev stop short of nothing to prevent the Russian reporters from doing an objective coverage of the “special operation” in the east of the country,” Brilyov went on. “They resort to denial of entry of the Ukrainian territory by Russian reporters, which means they put up obstacles to the newsmen’s professional activity.”

He recalled that the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s national parliament accepted a bill on a possible stripping of a number of Russian media working in Kiev of their accreditations. The situation has gone as far as arrests and beatings of reporters.

“And here’s a tragedy in the final run, the one that we can’t help sounding the alarm about, as two reporters working for the Rossiya’24 state-run channel have been killed,” Brilyov said.

It is quite noteworthy that Ukraine’s newly elected President Petro Poroshenko promised to investigate Kornelyuk and Voloshin’s death only after a late-night telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin.

Prior to that, Ukraine’ ambassador to the UN, Yuri Sergeyev said the reporters were themselves to blame for their deaths as they had allegedly been working without protective fatigues, although it is well-known that bullet-proof jackets are helpless against mortar shelling.

In the meantime, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki came up with a cynical comment on the situation on Wednesday, saying Washington was expressing condolences to the families of the journalists and adding along with it that “we do not have confirmation of this information (on the reporters’ death. — ITAR-TASS), as well as the details and the reasons for the incident.”

Her statement sounded like an uneasy echo of Washington officials’ reaction to the precisely targeted missile strikes at Serbia’s state television headquarters in Belgrade in 1999. One of them said then “employees of Yugoslavian state television” were not “journalists” in his “definition of terms” and the death of sixteen people inside the building was but “collateral damage”.

“Treatment of Russian journalism on the part of Kiev authorities is demonstrating the overall tendency of the Ukrainian politicians towards escalating the tensions with Moscow to the maximum,” Kirill Kabanov, a member of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights told ITAR-TASS.

“One can view last Saturday’s assault at the Russian embassy in Kiev by a mob of rioters and Kiev’s plans to shut the Ukrainian-Russian border in precisely this context and a range of other highly unfriendly steps in much the same context,” he said.

“The Kiev rulers are led by the nose by Washington, which is seeking to isolate Russia and to break up its historical economic ties with Ukraine,” Kabanov said. “Along with it the situation where Russian reporters diligently performing their professional duties become victims of political games are totally unacceptable.”

“Hundreds of Russian reporters who have covered hotbeds of tensions across the world have returned safe and sound from there,” Vsevolod Bogdanov, the chairman of Russia’s Union of Journalists told ITAR-TASS.

“Even the Afghan Mojaheds treated newsmen more caringly than the Ukrainian authorities do. Mojaheds thought it was a shame to kill the people writing about them and filming them, the people who are the eyes and ears of the whole world,” he said.

“This is to say, the Afghan militants would behave in a more civilized manner towards the media than today’s Ukrainian military and security services,” Bogdanov said.

“An incident occurred in Crimea prior to its reunification with Russia when local volunteer guards seized an Italian reporter whom they had suspected of espionage,” he went on. “It took a mere two hours for me to get to the leader of the guards on the phone and to arrange a release of the journalist - a fact that produced a sigh of relief in the European media community.”

“But no matter how much time I spent on the phone contacting political organizations in Ukraine in a bid to attain a release of Russian reporters, who had been seized by Ukrainian security services, these talks would usually end up in nothing,” Bogdanov said. “Kiev is concealing who arrested the Russian newsmen, who beat them to death and who killed two reporters working for the Rossiya’24 channel.”

“The willingness to wipe out the traces of crimes us a bad criminal characteristic of the incumbent Ukrainian authorities,” he said.

“Representatives of the Russian Union of Journalists are expected to take part in a meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) next week and they will raise the issues of security of the reporters covering the events in Ukraine,” Bogdanov said. “A point-blank question will dominate the agenda, namely, why Russian reporters are being purposefully killed in Ukraine.”

The Union of Journalists has sent letters to UNESCO, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists calling on them to bridle the violence against Russian reporters covering events in Ukraine, to find the individuals guilty of the death of VGTRK reporters and to bring them to account, Vsevolod Bogdanov said.


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