July 8, 2021

Crimean court extends detention of RFE/RL journalist by six months


A court in Russia-occupied Crimea has extended the detention of an RFE/RL freelance correspondent by six months as dozens of people rallied in the Ukrainian capital to call for his release.

A court in Simferopol ruled on July 6 that Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has been detained since March, will remain behind bars until December as he awaits trial. The next hearing is set for July 15.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Mr. Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence.

During his apprehension, the FSB claimed that it found an object “looking like an explosive device” in his automobile and he was later charged with “making firearms.”
The crime is punishable by up to six years in prison.

Mr. Yesypenko testified during a closed-door court hearing in April that he was tortured with electric shocks, beaten and threatened with death unless he “confessed” to spying on behalf of Ukraine, his lawyer reported at the time.

Ahead of the hearing, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called on the judge to free Mr. Yesypenko to be with his family, saying he was guilty of nothing more than being a journalist.

“He was trying to share the truth about the situation in Crimea with the outside world before facing detention and apparent torture at the hands of his Russian-backed captors,” Mr. Fly said in a statement.

Human rights activists and journalists joined Mr. Yesypenko’s wife on Maidan Square in Kyiv following the court hearing to demand his release.

Oleh Sentsov, a Crimean journalist and film director who was jailed by the Kremlin for five years, was among those who addressed the rally in Kyiv.

Mr. Sentsov, who was freed in September 2019 as part of a prisoner swap, told the crowd it was important to raise awareness about Ukrainian citizens imprisoned by Russia on trumped-up charges.

A similar demonstration is planned in Vinnytsia in western Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier took to Twitter to demand Mr. Yesypenko’s release.

Russia has sought to crush dissent in Crimea, including prosecuting journalists and human rights activists, since seizing the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014.

Copyright 2021, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see https://www.rferl.org/a/crimea-rferl-yesypenko-detention/31344070.html).