MOSCOW, May 19 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainian police announced Monday that journalists working for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) should leave the country by May 19, threatening the reporters with criminal charges in what has become the latest in a string of restrictions imposed on Russian media in the country this year.
According to VGTRK special reporter Ksenia Kibkalo, she was asked to sign a document stating that she is suspected of fomenting ethnic tensions, promoting separatism and destabilizing Ukraine. Her house was searched and all equipment was confiscated, including a video camera, a laptop and two USB drives, Kiblako told the Rossiya 24 news network.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Sunday it had detained Russian journalists near the city of Kramatorsk and turned them over to law enforcement for interrogation. According to earlier reports, LifeNews reporters Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko were detained by the Ukrainian National Guard near Kramatorsk.
On Sunday, following up on the incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov contacted OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter and asked the OSCE to use its best efforts to secure the immediate release of the two Russian citizens. The requests were submitted with the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna and the OSCE’s office in Kiev.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
On May 15, a crew of the TV Center channel was denied entry to Ukraine while heading to Kiev to cover the upcoming presidential election. The journalists were detained at the passport checkpoint of Kiev’s Borispol airport, with the official refusal stating that the visit’s purpose was unclear.
On May 6, a TV Center crew headed by Vera Kuzmina got into a similar situation. The reporters were travelling to Kiev for the same purpose, but were denied entry to Ukraine.
On May 13, Ukrainian armed forces opened fire on a LifeNews TV crew near Oktyabrskoye village not far from the city of Kramatorsk. Journalists Oleg Sidyakin, Marat Saichenko and Marat Abulkhatin were able take shelter and no one was injured.
On May 7, Ukrainian armed forces reportedly opened fire on LifeNews reporters near Slaviansk.
On April 25, LifeNews reporter Yulia Pustoplesnova (Shustraya) and camera man Mikhail Pudovkin were attacked by some 30 masked men as they headed to an interview with an anti-Maidan activist know as Topaz.
On April 24, Stepan Chirich, an employee of the First Production Company, which produces the Central Television weekly show for the NTV channel, was detained when entering the city of Pershotravinsk in the Dnepropetrovsk region.
In late April, VGTRK’s special reporter Alexander Rogatkin was denied entry to Ukraine by border guards.
On April 16, a Rossiya 24 crew, including reporter Yevgeny Reshetnev, camera man Sergey Truskov and engineer Vadim Klivanov, were arbitrarily detained near the city of Izyum where the Ukrainian military were conducting an operation at that time. The crew was freed the next day.
In April, Alexei Khydyakov, a reporter with the Segodnya.Ru online newspaper, was kidnapped by masked men in downtown Donetsk. The kidnappers originally presented themselves as operatives of Ukraine’s Security Service, took the reporter out into the woods, threatened him and forced him to sign documents stating that he would become their agent in Moscow.
On April 8, a RIA Novosti photo correspondent was denied entry to Ukraine. Alexei Kudenko, who was assigned to cover developments in Ukraine’s southeast, was not allowed into the country by border agents for “insufficient funds for staying in Ukraine.” Kudenko, who had more than enough cash on hand, was nevertheless put on the next return flight to Moscow.
The same day, Ukrainian border control officials refused entry to RIA Novosti’s correspondent Andrei Malyshkin, who was travelling from Moscow to Luhansk by train. As in the previous case, the lack of funds was cited as the reason for refusal.
The same day, the Kharkiv regional administration stopped a RIA Novosti correspondent from participating in a media tour of the administration building that was liberated from federalists the night before. The man who led journalists past the police cordon said the RIA Novosti journalist could not attend because he represented a Russian media outlet.
On the night of April 7-8, Ukrainian border guards detained Maxim Dodonov from the Zvezda TV channel at Donetsk airport. They kept him in the “rest room” for over seven hours while security went through his luggage and documents. Afterwards he was urged to buy a business class ticket back to Russia. Dodonov said the crew was not surprised when the border guards escorted him onto the plane, where he was later joined by colleagues from the St. Petersburg Channel 5 channel and the Podmoskovye TV channel. A LifeNews correspondent was also ordered to leave Ukraine that day.
On April 7, Ukrainian border guards ordered two Forbes Russia journalists travelling on a Moscow-Dnipropetrovsk train to disembark at the Kazachya Lopan station and to board the first train back to Belgorod, Russia. Officially, they were denied entry for “the lack of sufficient monetary resources and the unsubstantiated goal of the visit.” The magazine wrote that “the border guards told the journalist that if they tried to cross the border again they would be banned from Ukraine for three years.”
On the morning of April 7, Andrei Ivanov, a cameraman at the RUPTLY video news agency of Russia’s RT television network, was detained and interrogated at Donetsk airport. Ivanov said officials took his passport and put him on a return plane to Moscow, saying that he would get his papers back upon arrival in Russia. According to RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, the Ukrainian border guards said that the operator did not have sufficient funds for staying in Ukraine.
On March 27, Ukrainian cable operator Volia, which controls about 20 percent of the Ukrainian communications market, stopped broadcasting Russian TV channels NTV World, RTR Planeta and Channel 1 Global Network.
On March 25, the Kyiv District Administrative Court ruled to suspend NTV World, RTR Planet, and Channel 1 Global Network from all packages offered by Ukrainian providers.
Russian Foreign Ministry Human Rights Commissioner Konstantin Dolgov described the ruling on suspending four Russian channels in Ukraine as an attack on democratic freedoms.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović voiced concern over the Ukrainian National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting urging all national cable networks to discontinue Russian broadcasts, calling the ban “a form of censorship.”
On March 7, a TV Center film crew including correspondent Mikhail Shekoyan, cameraman Maxim Pankin and assistant cameraman Anatoly Zanin were deported from Donetsk airport. An NTV crew including correspondent Garry Knyagnitsky, cameraman Sergei Koreshkov, and sound engineer Dmitry Anisimov, as well as Channel 1 video cameramen Andrei Konik and Oleg Pudov were also denied entry.
On March 6, the Donetsk airport administration denied entry to a VGTRK film crew, including correspondent Veronica Bogma, video cameraman Antoine Kechedzhiyan, and assistant cameraman Vladimir Shumakov. VGTRK employee Andrei Meshcheryakov was also denied entry to Ukraine.
On March 4, the Ukrainian cable TV viewing grid dropped RTR Planet, Channel 1 World Network, and NTV World.
In early March, Russian media websites covering Ukrainian events were attacked by hackers, including Russia Today on March 2 and Rossiyskaya Gazeta on March 7.
In February, Russia 24 correspondent Artyom Kol received a death threat, with a 10,000-hryvna price set on his head.