MOSCOW, August 21, /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow on Thursday urged Kiev to clarify the fate of Russian photojournalist Andrei Stenin who was reported missing in Ukraine in early August.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov spoke of “an increasingly growing number of incidents of gross intentional lawlessness and violation of the inalienable right to life” directed against members of the media carrying out their professional duties in various conflict areas.
“Atrocities committed with regard to them have directly affected Russian journalists as well,” he said.
Over the past three months alone, three Russian journalists covering events in south-eastern regions of Ukraine have been killed, and many more attacked and abducted, Dolgov said.
The Foreign Ministry said it had no information about Stenin, who disappeared in Ukraine on August 5, and could not get it from the relevant Ukrainian authorities.
“Our Embassy in Kiev is working on this issue, keeping in touch with the competent Ukrainian authorities. Unfortunately, we have no information yet... because the relevant services in Ukraine have no such information,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
She said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was regularly raising this issue with his foreign and Ukrainian colleagues and addressing it publicly. “This is very important. Public actions are necessary to show that society cares,” Zakharova added.
“The minister of foreign affairs of Russia and the ministry in general, and the Russian embassy give priority to this issue. We are doing our best to get at least some information about Andrei Stenin’s fate,” she said.
The Ukrainian authorities have assured Moscow that they “are working on the matter”, the spokesperson said, adding, “We are not going to get off this topic.”
Stenin, working for one of Russia’s largest state-run news agencies Rossiya Segodnya (formerly RIA Novosti), disappeared in the embattled Ukrainian south-eastern region during a business trip to the south-east of Ukraine where he was making reports from Donetsk, Slavyansk and other cities and towns.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has begun a search for Stenin, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, said. In an interview with Latvian mass media last week, he said Stenin might have been arrested by the Ukrainian security service. “As far as I know he has been arrested by our security service,” he said.
But the Ukrainian National Security Service kept silent about the journalist’s whereabouts and denied that it was holding any members of Russian mass media.
However when Gerashchenko was asked if Stenin was being held by the Ukrainian security service, he said he had no collaborating documents but thought so.
He said that Stenin had been arrested for “aiding and glorifying terrorism”.
Shortly after that, Gerashchenko said his comments had been lifted out of context and that he was unaware of Stenin’s whereabouts.
Rossiya Segodnya Director-General Dmitry Kiselev said the charges brought against Stenin were “artificial and ridiculous”.
“The good news is that Andrei is alive. The bad news is that the Ukrainian authorities confirmed they were keeping him under arrest only a week afterwards. Apparently they needed a whole week to concoct a case against him,” Kiselev said.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic has expressed concern about reports that Stenin had gone missing in eastern Ukraine.
“I call for Stenin’s immediate release,” Mijatovic said. “This dangerous practice of detaining and abducting media workers is unacceptable and must end,” Mijatovic said.
“I call on those responsible to stop targeting journalists for carrying out their work,” she said.
Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Stenin might have been abducted.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said several government agencies were working to bring Stenin back home.
In a second note in one week, the Russian Embassy in Kiev on Friday, August 15, asked the Ukrainian authorities to provide information on the journalist’s whereabouts. “The note contains a request to comment on reports that the Russian journalist has been detained by Ukrainian security services,” a source familiar with the situation told ITAR-TASS.
There has so far been no reply to this or the previous note of August 11.