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Russia launches proceedings into capture of journalists in Ukraine

June 11, 2014, 16:39 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Russia's Investigative Committee has organised a specialised department on investigation of crimes against civilians in Ukraine

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© ITAR-TASS/Konstantin Semenov

MOSCOW, June 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case on the capture of Russian TV Channel Zvezda journalists in Ukraine, the committee’s spokesman Vladimir Markin said Wednesday.

The journalists, Andrey Sushenkov and Anton Malyshev, came to Ukraine to cover the inauguration of President-elect Petro Poroshenko. They stopped getting in contact in the evening of June 6 after they arrived at a checkpoint in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk Region.

They were later released.

The Investigative Committee has organised a specialised department on investigation of crimes against civilians in Ukraine.

Investigators say that in violation of the Geneva Convention, groups of Ukraine’s National Guard and the Right Sector far-right ultranationalist movement illegally captured the Russian reporters, who were not taking part in the armed conflict in Ukraine’s Southeast, on June 6 near the city of Slavyansk and held them for three days as hostages.

The Russian Investigative Committee said the journalists were systematically beaten and other violence was used against them. Sushenkov and Malyshev were handcuffed, bags were put on their heads, and they were forced to their knees.

The Russian presidential Human Rights Council, journalist organizations and the European Commission called for their release. On June 9, the reporters were released and returned to Moscow.

People involved in the crime are being established. Proceedings in the criminal case have been merged with proceedings in the case on the use of banned methods of war by Ukraine’s army.

Markin told Itar-Tass in late May that his committee launched criminal proceedings into the use of banned means and methods of war in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics (Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine’s Southeast).

The case was launched against unidentified servicemen of the Ukrainian armed forces, “National Guard of Ukraine” and the Right Sector far-right ultranationalist movement after the eastern Ukrainian cities of Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Mariupol and other inhabited localities in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were shelled.

Russian investigators say that during shelling of these localities, in violation of the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Ukrainian army servicemen, National Guard and Right Sector fighters deliberately, “with the purpose of killing civilians, used weapons, artillery, aviation, including with UN symbols and armored vehicles”.

As a result, investigators say, some civilians were killed and some were injured, industry, energy, communications and transport infrastructure facilities, residential, social and cultural buildings, including hospitals, kindergartens and schools, were destroyed in full or partially.

Fierce fighting has been underway between the Ukrainian military and militias in Ukraine’s southeastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which refused to recognize the authorities who had been propelled to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

A punitive operation, being conducted by Kiev against federalization supporters in Ukraine's Southeast and involving armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation, has already claimed dozens of lives, including civilian, as well as destroyed and damaged buildings.

Billionaire businessman and politician Pyotr Poroshenko, who had funded anti-government protests that led to February’s coup, won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine set by the provisional Kiev authorities. He was sworn in on June 7. Despite hopes that the punitive operation will stop under Poroshenko, it still continues.

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