Ukraine: RFE/RL journalist Vladislav Yesypenko sentenced to six years in prison on fabricated charges

On February 16, 2022, the Russian court of the Simferopol district (Crimea) sentenced journalist Vladislav Yesypenko of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty to six years in prison. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined their affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), in denouncing the events and calling for the journalist's immediate release.

Journalist Vladislav Yesypenko Credits: Crimean Solidarity/NUJU

After a closed trial, the Simferopol District Court found Vladislav Yesypenko guilty of trumped-up charges, including possession and transportation of explosives. Despite the prosecution's request for an 11-year prison sentence, the final verdict was a total of six years in a maximum-security penal colony and a fine of 110,000 rubles (€1,273.65).

Yasypenko was charged with "illegal production, repair or modification of firearms" with the intent to take a grenade from a secret warehouse on the orders of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service. He was detained on March 10, 2021 pending trial in Crimea by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

Morover, Yesypenko stated to his lawyer that he was tortured with electrocution and death threats after his arrest, and that he was forced to confess on the TV channel "Crimea 24" in March 2021. The incident was reported to the Council of Europe forum for the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

Yesipenko has Ukrainian and Russian nationalities and has been working with the regional news program of RFE/RL's Ukrainian service "Crimea.Realities" for about five years. He regularly contributes photos and videos, which are posted on RFE/RL resources.

NUJU President Sergiy Tomilenko said, "NUJU condemns this absurd sentence! The trial of the journalist, which has been ongoing since last March, demonstrates the fear that undemocratic political regimes have of freedom of expression. Strength to Vladislav and his family."

"We condemn a travesty of justice. Yesypenko has been detained on baseless charges and tortured. He must be released now! We call on the Russian Federation to stop the persecution of the other illegally detained professional journalists and citizens. Furthermore, the EFJ/IFJ urges international organizations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe and UNESCO to react firmly and demand Russia to respect press freedom and journalistic work," added EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutierrez.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "This barbaric use of torture and forced confessions must be stopped, as well as the false accusations, which must be withdrawn. Together with journalists' unions around the world, we demand that Vladislav be released immediately."

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