MOSCOW, May 21. /TASS/. A case of Ukrainian citizen Roman Sushchenko, accused in Russia on espionage charges, and last week’s arrest of RIA Novosti Ukraine news service Kirill Vyshinsky, have nothing in common, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
"All comparisons of Sushchenko with correspondents of Rossiya Segodnya news agency are ungrounded not because in terms of moral standards, but in legal terms," Zakharova said speaking on late Sunday night talk show on Rossia-1 television channel.
"Rossiya Segodnya news agency’s correspondent in Ukraine worked as an accredited correspondent and it was his journalistic work, which served as the reason, first for searches, and then for arrests," Zakharova said.
"Speaking about Sushchenko, who entered the territory of Russia, he was not engaged in journalistic activities…, most importantly, and this fact was protocoled, Sushchenko was not a journalist when he was entering Russia," Zakharova stated. "It can be proved by documents he filled out as he never turned in documents applying for a journalist visa."
Ukrainian national Roman Sushchenko is charged with article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (Espionage), that stipulates a penalty of up to 20 years of imprisonment. As the Public Relations Center of the Russian Federal Security Service earlier stated, Sushchenko is a Ukrainian Defense Ministry intelligence staffer and was arrested while spying. According to the Federal Security Service (FSB), he had been collecting top-secret information on Russia’s Armed Forces and the National Guard.
The Ukrainian has pled not guilty to the charges. Lawyer Mark Feygin said his client is a reporter of the Ukrinform news agency in Paris who came to Moscow on vacation to visit his relatives. The Ukrainian news agency confirmed the information saying that Sushchenko had been a staff member since 2002.
On May 15, The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a large-scale operation against the employees of RIA Novosti Ukraine accusing them of high treason. Its Editor-in-Chief Kirill Vyshinsky was taken into custody near his house early in the morning. Shortly after that, searches began at the news agency’s central office in Kiev, in its press center and in some journalists’ apartments, which lasted several hours.
The Ukrainian intelligence agency also issued a statement saying that it uncovered the activities of "a network of media structures controlled by the Russian Federation," which were used by "the aggressor state as part of a hybrid information war against Ukraine."
The Kherson City Court in Ukraine ruled last Thursday to arrest the Russian journalist for the period of two months.