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FSB detains Polish journalist in Crimea over ‘anti-Russian texts’


Wacław Radziwinowicz, Moscow correspondent for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, was held for 6 hours by FSB [security service] officers in Simferopol on May 17.  He is in the Crimean capital to cover the seventieth anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars. 

The journalist was sitting in a restaurant with a colleague from Kyiv when a Crimean Tatar woman came up and joined them.  It was she, Radziwinowicz says, who first began looking worried. 3-4 men came up to them and his colleague noticed that one of them was pointing a gun at him.  They said they were law enforcement officers but did not show any identification.  

The armed man looked up Radziwinowicz on his laptop, clearly not realizing that the journalist has a year-long Russian visa.  The officer began reading the journalist’s texts and talking about their ‘anti-Russian nature’. 

Since they hadn’t accused him of anything (other than ‘anti-Russian material’), he initially refused to go when they said that they were taking all three of them to the FSB.  Since they threatened to call the patrol and get him handcuffed, the three went to the FSB, but in their own car.

He was interrogated there about why he’d come, why he was talking with those people, what he’d wanted to ask but not had time.

They detained him on the pretext of his having illegally crossed the border.  This was despite his telling them that they would get it in the neck from their superiors for denying that the Crimea was part of Russia since he had a Russian visa.  He refused to sign the form they thrust in front of him.

Radziwinowicz believes that he was released after 6 hours because the authorities, made a concession and agreed to the Crimean Tatars’ gathering albeit near a mosque and not in the central square. Since there aren’t any other foreign journalists there, he says, they needed him to show how ‘good’ the authorities there are.

That this must be disputed is seen in the disturbingly Soviet echoes of the journalist’s encounter with the security service.  Even more so in the fact that the traditional “light a flame in your heart’ event in memory of the victims of the Deportation took place in Kyiv and many other cities in the world on Saturday evening, but was banned in the Crimea under Russian annexation (more details here: Russian Clamp on Crimean Tatar Remembrance)

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