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Putin demands release of Russian journalists arrested in Ukraine

June 09, 16:08 UTC+3

On May 15, the Ukrainian Security Service carried out a large-scale operation against RIA Novosti Ukraine staff members, accusing them of high treason

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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Pyotr Poroshenko demanded the immediate release of Russian journalists arrested in Ukraine, the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

"Particular attention was paid to humanitarian issues, including the exchange of detainees," the statement reads. "Vladimir Putin emphasized the need to immediately release Russian journalists arrested in Ukraine," the Kremlin press service said, adding that "an agreement was made that both countries’ Russian and Ukrainian human rights ombudspersons would visit Russian citizens who remain in custody in Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens detained in Russia," the statement adds.

The telephone call was initiated by Kiev.

Vyshinsky case

On May 15, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) carried out a large-scale operation against RIA Novosti Ukraine staff members, accusing them of high treason. The news agency’s Chief Editor Kirill Vyshinsky was detained. Searches were conducted in the news agency’s Kiev office and press center, as well as in some journalists’ apartments. The SBU also issued a statement claiming that "a network of media structures, which Moscow used for carrying out a hybrid war" against Kiev had been exposed.

The journalist was taken to the city of Kherson, where the city court arrested him for 60 days. The high treason charge against him is particularly based on a number of the journalist’s articles dedicated to the 2014 events in Crimea. If found guilty, the journalist may face up to 15 years in prison.

Vyshinsky, originally a Ukrainian national, obtained Russian citizenship in 2015. Vyshinsky addressed Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko from the courtroom, renouncing his Ukrainian citizenship and saying he considered himself to be only a Russian national. He also addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for legal assistance in his release.

Sentsov and others

At the Contact Group’s recent Minsk meeting, Ukrainian Presidential Envoy for the Peaceful Settlement of the Situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions Irina Gerashchenko presented a list of 23 Russians to be handed over to Moscow in exchange for Ukrainian citizens convicted in Russia. She said that Kiev was ready to hand over 23 Russians convicted in Ukraine in exchange for Oleg Sentsov, Alexander Kolchenko, Stanislav Klykh and Pavel Grib.

On August 25, 2015, Russia’s North Caucasus District Military Court sentenced Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in prison on charges of establishing a terrorist group in Crimea. In the spring of 2014, the group’s members carried two terrorist attacks in the Crimean city of Simferopol, setting on fire the offices of Crimea’s Russian Community organization and the United Russia party’s Crimean branch.

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