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Russian reporters were held under intolerable conditions in Ukrainian captivity

June 09, 2014, 16:43 UTC+3 9 9/6

They spent two days "practically without water in close stuffy room where the temperature reached 50 degrees," one of reporters says

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MOSCOW, June 09./ITAR-TASS/.The reporters of the Russian Zvezda (Star) television channel, who were released after detention in Ukraine and who returned in Moscow overnight, said they were held for two days "practically without water in close stuffy room where the temperature reached 50 degrees (Centigrade)", the Zvezda website cited them as saying.

"We were hungry, it was hot and dirty and painful sometimes ... we were not tortured, but were assaulted when questioned to find out whether we worked for any security services and whether we were spies," they said.

They confirmed the words of a witness, their driver, about circumstances of the detention at a checkpoint near Sloviansk. Earlier, the local driver said Ukrainian servicemen had detained the reporters, kept their documents for two hours, and then a military helicopter landed at the site. The reporters chained with one pair of handcuffs and with bags on the heads were kept kneeled.

The Russian Investigative Committee's spokesman Vladimir Markin told ITAR-TASS the committee intended to open a criminal case in connection with the seizure of the TV reporters by the Ukrainian military.

"Soon the Investigative Committee will take the decision to open a criminal case over the fact, and afterwards it will be joined to the criminal case of the use of prohibited warfare means and methods," Markin said.

"It is already clear that it was seizure and illegal holding of Russian citizens another violation of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War."

A television source said cameraman Andrei Sushenkov and engineer Anton Malyshev were handed over to the Russian side at the Nekhoteyevka border crossing point, the Belgorod region, and would be flown by a special defense ministry plane to Moscow.

The reporters arrived in Ukraine to cover the inauguration of elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Contact with them was lost late on June 6 after they came to a checkpoint in the Donetsk region.

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Detention of Russian journalists near Ukraine's Kramatorsk © AP/TASS TV
The television company asked Poroshenko to release the reporters and also appealed to the journalistic community for support. The Russian Embassy in Ukraine also joined efforts to free the Zvezda journalists.

Later, the press service of the Ukrainian National Guards said the reporters were suspected of conducting surveillance of a checkpoint and gathering information.

The Council for Human Rights, the International Federation of Journalists, the Union of Journalists of Russia, the Union of Journalists of Moscow and the European Commission urged to free the Russian reporters.

The journalists were released on the night from Sunday to Monday and arrived by plane in Moscow.

Many Russian journalists were barred from entering Ukraine recently, particularly before the presidential elections. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns it and calls on Ukrainian authorities to allow all journalists to do their job without harassment, the CPJ has said in a statement. “If Ukrainian authorities are looking to build a democratic state, they must stop barring the press from covering public events in the country, especially the presidential vote.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded Orders of Courage to three Russian journalists for their courageous work in conflict-hit Ukraine.

The awards went to Fyodor Zavaleykov, a journalist from the Russia Today (RT) international news television channel, and to Marat Saichenko and Oleg Sidyakin from Russia’s LifeNews television channel.

Zavaleykov, 23, was severely wounded on May 9 while providing news coverage of a military operation in Ukraine’s eastern city of Mariupol. The journalist sustained an abdominal injury and underwent a surgery at a local hospital. Four days later he was flown on a medical jet to Moscow, where he was hospitalized for further treatment.

Sidyakin and Saichenko were detained by Ukrainian law enforcers near the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine on May 18. Victoria Siumar, a deputy head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, accused the LifeNews journalists of being “members of terrorist groups”.

Both journalists, who were also held under severe conditions in captivity, were released early on May 25. According to LifeNews, representatives of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov negotiated the journalists’ release in Kiev for several days in absolute secrecy.

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