KIEV, May 17. /TASS/. Chief Editor of the RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency Kirill Vyshinsky, accused of high treason, believes that the criminal case launched against him is a crackdown on freedom of speech.
"I believe that the case the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has launched against me is a direct crackdown on freedom of speech in the country," he said at the Kherson City Court’s hearing on Thursday.
The journalist was also critical of law enforcement agencies investigating the case. "There are a lot of factual errors in the request [for Vyshinsky’s arrest - TASS] that has been provided to us, as well as distorted facts and blatant rubbish," he noted.
According to Vyshinsky, while bringing charges, the prosecution "left out an important detail." "There were no editorials [among the articles the prosecution referred to - TASS]. All of the articles have authors and were published under the ‘Point of View’ heading, which means they are opinion pieces," the journalist explained.
In addition, he rejected the prosecution’s claim that the RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency had not been registered. "It was registered, there is a certificate and a stamp to prove that, and Andrei Borodin is named as the office’s head, while I have been the agency’s chief editor for four years," Vyshinsky said.
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. 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 end 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 on Wednesday that Moscow had sent two notes of protest to Kiev over Vyshinsky’s case.
The Kherson City Court is expected to make a decision on the journalist’s arrest on Thursday. According to spokesperson for the so-called ‘Crimean’ Prosecutor’s Office [part of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office, based in Kherson - TASS] Tatyana Tikhonchik, the prosecution requested the court arrest Vyshinksy for two months.