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Moscow calls on EU to abandon plans on sanctions against Russian journalists

It is beyond good and evil to punish people, who risk their lives in Ukraine for the sake of objective coverage of the developing events, a senior Russian diplomat says

MOSCOW, September 23. /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow hopes that the European Union will refrain from including in its sanctions lists names of Russian journalists or mass media agencies for their alleged ‘propagandist coverage’ of events in Ukraine, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.

“We have read through the German daily Junge Welt’s recently published extracts from the protocol of the EU permanent members committee session, which took place on September 10,” Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov said.

According to the diplomat, the session particularly focused on the “inclusion of some Russian journalists and even mass media agencies in the European Union’s sanctions lists for their alleged propagandist coverage of Crimea’s ‘annexation’ by Russia and ‘destabilization’ of the situation in eastern Ukraine.”

“We once again stress the absurdity and inadmissibility of such interpretations of the Ukrainian events,” Dolgov said. “This is not a novelty for us that some EU member states, that speak loudly from various international rostrums in favor of protecting the freedom of expression, appear as initiators of bullying against dissenting journalists and mass media.”

“This is, for instance, what happened with the Guardian daily, which was oppressed by the British authorities after its publications on Edward Snowden’s leaks, or with the suspension of rebroadcasting of the First Baltic (TV) channel in Lithuania for airing a story which was undesirable for the official authorities,” Dolgov said.

“Similar methods of work with dissenting mass media are actively used in other EU member states, and we (Russia) have repeatedly pointed out this fact, including in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s reports on the situation with the human rights in the European Union.”

Dolgov said that the published materials by Junge Welt daily “once again demonstrate a double-standard and biased approach of some European Union’s activists, who, driven by their lame desire to harm Russia, are ignoring the European values of the freedom of speech, the common sense and broken fates of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, who fell victims to the cynically supported by the West ‘democratic’ operations of Kiev in the south-east of Ukraine.”

“It is beyond good and evil to punish people, who risk their lives in Ukraine for the sake of objective coverage of the developing events,” the diplomat said. “We hope that the objectivity and common sense would eventually prevail in Brussels.”

“We call on the international human rights institutions, including on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, to prevent another bold flouting of international norms in the sphere of human rights,” Dolgov added.

Russian journalists’ work in Ukraine

Work of Russian journalists in Ukraine’s embattled south-eastern regions repeatedly raised international concerns in terms of their security. In the most recent chain of tragic events involving journalists working in Ukraine, Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya, formerly RIA Novosti, confirmed earlier this month that its photojournalist Andrei Stenin was killed in Ukraine in early August.

Stenin disappeared in south-east Ukraine while reporting on the armed conflict in Donetsk, Sloviansk and other war-torn areas of the country. Contact with him was lost on August 5. Russia's Investigative Committee said the photographer was killed when Ukrainian military opened fire at a refugee convoy near Donetsk on August 6.

The death of 33-year-old Stenin added up to previous murders of Russian journalists working in Ukraine’s south-east.

Russian television journalist Anatoly Klyan was killed in late June after a bus he was riding in with other journalists came under fire in the Donetsk Region. The 68-year-old journalist worked as a cameraman for state-run television broadcaster Channel One and had 40 years of television work experience.

Two correspondents from Russian central television and radio broadcasting company VGTRK, special correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and sound engineer Anton Voloshin, were killed near the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk on June 17.

They came under mortar fire near a roadblock of militia as they were filming a TV report about people’s militias helping to evacuate refugees from the combat zone. Journalists bore clearly visible media badges at the moment of the attack. According to eyewitnesses, a mortar shell exploded near the Russian filming crew. Sound engineer Voloshin died at the scene and Kornelyuk died later at a local hospital.

Moreover, on May 24 Italian photo correspondent Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter Andrey Mironov were killed in mortar fire near the city of Sloviansk.