Ukraine: De facto authorities in Donetsk sentence journalist Aseev to 15 years in jail for “spying”

Responding to reports that the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” has sentenced journalist Stanislav Aseev to 15 years in a maximum security penal colony for “espionage” and “extremism”, Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine said:

 “We condemn the decision by the de facto authorities in Donetsk to imprison Stanislav Aseev for his work as an independent journalist. The sentence is the latest affront to human rights by forces that took control of Donetsk five years ago.

The sentence is the latest affront to human rights by forces that took control of Donetsk five years ago
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

“Journalists collect and impart information, that’s what they do for living. For those who are bent on terrorizing and silencing free media, an independent journalist is a “spy” by default. Stanislav Aseev must be released immediately, and the people’s right to freedom of expression in Donetsk and throughout Ukraine must be uphold.”

Background

Stanislav Aseev is a Ukrainian journalist who remained in Donetsk and continued working under a pseudonym after its takeover by Russia-backed armed groups. He disappeared on 2 June 2017, and it was only on 16 July 2017 that the de facto authorities acknowledged that he was in their custody, accused of “organization of an extremist community” and “espionage”. In August 2018, Russia’s national TV channel Rossiya 24 broadcast an “interview” with Stanislav Aseev in which he “confessed” to espionage. Amnesty International has denounced the credibility of his testimony while in captivity.

Media freedom in Ukraine, including in government-controlled territory, has been cause for growing concern in recent years with instances of politically-motivated criminal proceedings against independent journalists and killings of journalists that remain unsolved. On 23 October 2019, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine called on the Ukrainian parliament, president and government to acknowledge and address the high level of violence faced by journalists in Ukraine and impunity by those who perpetrate it.