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21.11.2017 | Halya Coynash

Russia could sentence Ukrainian journalist to 20 years for gathering information about invasion

Roman Sushchenko Photo Ukrinform
   

The trial is due in January 2018 of Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko whom Russia has been holding prisoner for over a year.  Sushchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin reports that a sentence of 20 years is planned, with the charge being that the journalist “gathered information about an anticipated invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the summer or autumn of 2016.”.

Since Russia has already flagrantly breached international law through its invasion and annexation of Crimea and military engagement in Donbas, the prosecution should come up with a more compelling indictment.  They may, of course, not even try, since the ‘trial’ is to be held behind closed doors, with Feygin prohibited from revealing any details.

Sushchenko has been in Russian detention since September 30, 2016. The then 47-year-old journalist was seized by FSB officers shortly after arriving in Moscow where he has close relatives. 

On Oct 3, the FSB claimed that the Ukrainian journalist, who had been working as Paris correspondent for the past 6 years for the Ukrinform news agency was a colonel in Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, who had been gathering secret information about the activities of the Russian army and forces of the National Guard.  The FSB asserted that the information, if leaked abroad, could have caused damage to the state’s defence capacity. 

This appears to be the line that the FSB is now taking, and will be pushing in a ‘court’ closed to journalists and international observers. 

Worth noting that Russia’s Foreign Ministry focused its attention on the fact that Sushchenko had not had journalist accreditation.  It claimed that he had had no right to engage in journalist activities. 

This was either a strange failure by Russian agencies to coordinate their story, or something more sinister, since the argument was pitiful.  A journalist does not stop being open to new information just because he’s taken leave for a few days.  It seems that Sushchenko was ‘set up’, by being asked to take a disk back to Paris for another journalist.  The most disturbing aspect of this story is that Sushchenko had agreed to take the disk for a person he has known for 28 years.  Since he was arrested while receiving the disk, the person was almost certainly involved.

Sushchenko has been held ever since in the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.  Feygin reports that Sushchenko’s wife Angela and adult daughter Julia are due to visit him on November 20.   Up till now, he has only twice been allowed visits from his family, first a two-hour meeting with his wife, then a meeting with his wife and daughter.  The latter was supposed to be for three hours but they were allowed only an hour and a half.  On both occasions, they were separated by a glass wall and a guard was present throughout.  They were forced to speak Russian, so that the guard could follow the conversation. 

Sushchenko’s 11-year-old son Maxim has not seen his father at all, and has only once been allowed to speak with him by telephone.  His letter pleading for his Papa’s release was ignored.

Julia is convinced that Russia restricts contact between political prisoners and their families, and keeps them in an information vacuum in order to put psychological pressure on them.  They will keep him without any letters for months at a time, and then he gets a huge number.

She cannot understand why her father was targeted, but dismisses as absurd Russia’s spying claims. Her father had already visited his cousin who was elderly, and had been in bad health.  He was coming to Moscow as a person who had been living and working as a correspondent in France for six years.

Julia is also a journalist, and says that in her work she has read and written about such FSB cases, but could never have imagined that it could happen to a person close to her.

She is convinced that maximum publicity is crucial.  “This is barbaric – they grab an innocent man on fabricated charges, imprison him in a remand prison for over a year, restrict his freedom, his contact with his family and access to information. The world must know that such things are taking place and must stop them. Pressure needs to be placed to get him released because today somebody else’s son, father, husband could end up in Roman Sushchenko’s place”.

Please write to Roman Sushchenko!  

All letters tell him and Moscow that he is not forgotten.  The letters must be in Russian, and please avoid talking about politics or any other ‘sensitive’ subject.

If Russian is a problem, the following would be fine, maybe with a picture or photo.

Добрый день,

Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение.

Мы о Вас помним.   

[Hello, I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  You are not forgotten. ]

Address

111020, Moscow, 5 Lefortovsky Val, Lefortovo remand prison No. 2, postbox 201

Sushchenko Roman Vladimirovich (b. 1969)

[Russian: 111020, г. Москва, ул. Лефортовский Вал, 5, СИЗО-2 “Лефортово” ФСИН России, Е20, а/я 201, Сущенко Роману Владимировичу, 1969 г.р

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