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KIEV, August 16, /ITAR-TASS/. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has begun a search for Russian photojournalist Andrei Stenin who was reported missing in Ukraine last week, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, said on Saturday.
The Interior Ministry, he said, has been involved in searching for Andrei Stenin “as for other missing persons.”
“As soon as we find him, we shall inform the media,” he said. “Meanwhile, I am asking reporters, especially Russian ones, not to disturb me on this matter.”
However in an interview with Latvian mass media on Tuesday, 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.
When asked if Stenin was being held by the Ukrainian security service, Gerashchenko 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.
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. Contact with him was lost on August 5.
The Ukrainian National Security Service kept silent about the journalist’s whereabouts and denied that it was holding any members of Russian mass media.
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.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has urged the Ukrainian authorities to clarify Stenin’s status.
“We call on Ukrainian authorities to clarify the status of Andrei Stenin, who has been missing in the eastern part of the country for a week,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Programme Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “If Ukrainian authorities are indeed holding the journalist, they should release him immediately and allow the media to cover events freely,” the organistion said in a statement posted on its official website.
“Scores of Stenin’s colleagues gathered today to demand Stenin’s release. Press freedom conditions in Ukraine, especially in the volatile south-eastern regions, have steadily deteriorated in recent months, with journalists being detained, attacked, abducted, and killed, according to CPJ research,” it 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 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.