SOCHI, May 18. /TASS/. The situation surrounding the arrest of Chief Editor of the RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency Kirill Vyshinsky is unprecedented, Russian President Vladimir Putin said following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.
"This is unprecedented," he said. "They seek to charge him with high treason for what he did openly, while fulfilling his professional duties. I haven’t seen such things for a long time, I cannot recall anything like that. We touched upon this issue, as well as other issues related to Ukraine, but I would rather refrain from going into details," Putin added.
Merkel, in turn, said that she used the meeting with Putin as an opportunity to discuss difficulties that journalists, including those working in Russia, had to face.
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 outside his home early on Tuesday. Soon after that, searches were conducted in the news agency’s Kiev office and press center, as well as in some journalists’ apartments. At the same time, the SBU 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 Russian embassy in Kiev demanded that the Ukrainian authorities take all the necessary measures to stop violence against media workers, immediately release the detained journalist, launch an impartial investigation into the incident and punish those abusing power. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that Moscow had sent two notes of protest to Kiev over Vyshinsky’s case.
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.
A number of international organizations expressed concern about the situation. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it was concerned about attacks on journalists in Ukraine. The International Federation of Journalists and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media called on Kiev to respect the rights of journalists.