U.S. Denounces Crackdown On ‘Independent Voices’ In Crimea After RFE/RL Freelancer Targeted

The US State Department has called for the release of a freelance RFE / RL correspondent arrested in the Russian-annexed Crimean region of Ukraine and has joined human rights groups in expressing concerns about his treatment and a televised “confession” he had broadcast To express.

“Troubled by reports that Russian occupation authorities have tortured @RFERL, a freelance journalist in Crimea [Vladyslav] Yesypenko to force his confession. We demand his release and Russia to end its reprisals against independent voices in Crimea, ”spokesman Ned Price tweeted on April 13th.

Yesypenko’s lawyer said on April 6 that his client testified in camera during a court hearing that he had been electrocuted, beaten and threatened with death unless he “confessed” on behalf of Ukraine to spy on.

Attorney Aleksei Ladin said after the hearing that the torture continued two days after Yesypenko was arrested on March 10, because the defense made false accusations against the journalist, who had dual Ukrainian and Russian nationalities.

Then-RFE / RL President Jamie Fly said the broadcaster was “outraged” when he learned what Yesypenko said during his testimony, saying the journalist “must now be released and be allowed to return to his family in Ukraine immediately . “

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Yesypenko, a Crimean freelance worker. Realities, a regional news agency of the Ukrainian RFE / RL service, was suspected of gathering information for the Ukrainian secret service, claiming that an object “looked like an explosive.” “Was found in his car during his arrest.

The journalist was charged with “manufacturing firearms”, which is punishable by up to six years in prison.

Ladin said a television interview was broadcast on March 18 in which Yesypenko “confessed” to spying for Ukraine. The lawyer quoted his client as saying that he had received a written text to read aloud and then answered questions put by those responsible for his detention.

According to Ladin, Yesypenko also said at the trial that he had serious problems with his kidneys and needed medication for the disease.

RFE / RL President Fly has questioned the circumstances under which Yesypenko made his confession, stating that it was made “by force and without access to legal aid”.

“The Russian authorities have similarly smeared false accusations against employees of the RFE / RL Ukrainian service in the past. Vladyslav is a freelance worker of the RFE / RL Ukrainian service, not a spy, and should be released,” he said.

The Ukrainian foreign intelligence service has described the arrest as “a convenient attempt to divert the attention of the population from the numerous internal problems of the peninsula” around the seventh anniversary of its violent annexation, which was celebrated on March 18.

The State Department has described Yesypenko’s arrest as “yet another attempt to suppress those who speak the truth about Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine in March 2014, dispatched troops and hosted a referendum condemned as illegitimate by at least 100 countries after the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown amid a wave of public protests.

Human rights groups say Russia has since acted aggressively to prosecute Ukrainian activists and anyone who questions the annexation.

Moscow also supports separatists in a war against Ukrainian government forces that has killed more than 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

May 30, 2021