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Militants detain, beat and ’deport’ independent Russian journalist

Halya Coynash

Pavel Kanygin, Novaya Gazeta’s special correspondent in Ukraine,  had a gun put to his head and was beaten a day after he reported the first serious protest against the Kremlin-backed militants’ shelling in Donetsk, and the same day that he and 8 other courageous Russian journalists and human rights activists were reported to have challenged Putin’s decree classifying information about military losses in Ukraine

Novaya Gazeta reported in the afternoon that Kanygin had been detained by the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic security service’ who were organizing his deportation to Russia. 

They had been told by somebody holding Kanygin who identified himself only as Igor Mikhailovich, refusing to give his surname, that their correspondent did not appear to be working for Novaya Gazeta but for “one of the Ukrainian publications”.  The militant found no better explanation for this absurd claim than that they had found the “business card of a Ukrainian journalist with the surname Matsuga”  (probably Alexei Matsuka). 

The militants also insisted on taking a blood test for narcotic substances and claimed that the result was positive.  Novaya Gazeta rejects this and says that they will be seeking a proper blood test as soon as Kanygin arrives back in Moscow.

Kanygin himself reported in the evening that he had been released after a 5-hour “courteous interrogation, as can be seen” (from the photo).  He had been stopped at 14.00 by the militants ‘security service’ people purportedly because he didn’t have accreditation.  In fact, he had been told by other officials that the accreditation would be ready that evening. 

Novaya Gazeta waited for news that Kanygin had been taken across the border into Russia and would soon be on his way to Moscow before reporting themselves that their journalist had been beaten.  He had told them that he was brought to the MGB [the ‘Ministry of State Security’  - tellingly reminiscent of the Soviet KGB].  “Their official put a pistol to my head and said that if I move, he’ll shoot me. After that he asked if I was for them or for “ukropy” [a derogatory term for Ukrainians].  I said I was for peace and at that moment he punched me in the eye.  He gave it to me hard, and then immediately took me for questioning. There they said that I was a drug addict, that I get paid in drugs from the State Department, from the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service].”  He told them to look him up on the Internet which they did, but then returned to the first pretext about the supposed lack of accreditation and also accused him of “criminal collaboration” because of the business card.

As reported here, Kanygin was one of the main sources of information about the protest in Donetsk on Monday where around 500 residents demanded that the militants stop firing rocket launchers from inside Donetsk and stop using civilians as shields.  Kanygin reported the protest live and honestly, in marked contrast to both the militants’ websites and Russian pro-Kremlin media.  See:  “Stop using us as shields!”  Donetsk protests against Kremlin-backed militants

Kanygin is also one of 9 human rights activists and journalists who have lodged an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court against Putin’s decree of May 28 which classifies information about military losses in Ukraine (“during special operations in peacetime”) as state secrets.

See: Putin’s decree classifying military deaths in Ukraine challenged

Whether or not the militants were aware of Kanygin’s recent reports, those in the Kremlin and Russian defence ministry have undoubtedly been following his interviews of two Russian spetsnaz officers captured in Ukraine.  His talks with the two men -  – Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov – have been widely reported.  In their interviews, the spetsnaz officers reject Moscow’s claim that they were not active military officers when taken prisoner and express their concern and desperation at being prevented from speaking with their families. 

See:  Moscow prevents captured Russian POWs from contacting their families

Kanygin’s reports from Crimea have also been important antidotes for the lies and distortion presented in the pro-Kremlin media  (one crucial example here).

The pretext for Kanygin’s detention, his treatment and ‘deportation’ leave little room for doubt that somebody wants him out of Ukraine. It is really only unclear whether the militants were reacting to Monday’s live coverage of the protest in Donetsk, or – as so often - to instructions from above.  

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