Journalist held incommunicado by Russian authorities in Crimea for 13 days
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arbitrary detention of Irina Danilovich, a journalist who was abducted in Russian-annexed Crimea on 29 April and was held incommunicado by the Russian authorities for 13 days. She must be freed at once, RSF says.
Danilovich’s lawyer finally located her yesterday in a detention centre in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol and, although still unable to see her, he learned that she is facing up to eight years in prison and a fine of 100,000 roubles (1,400 euros) on a charge of “illegal manufacture, transport or possession of explosives” under article 222-1 of the Russian penal code.
“After her 13 days incommunicado, with no news given to her family, we are relieved to know that Irina Danilovich is still alive but we fear she has been mistreated,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We condemn her abduction and arbitrary detention in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Moscow, and we call on the Russian authorities to release her at once.”
On the day that Danilovich disappeared, her home was searched by hooded special unit members, according to Krym.Realii, an offshoot of the Prague-based US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Her father was told at the time that she had been arrested for ten days, but he was given no further details. Her lawyer says she is being detained provisionally for at least two months.
Although her lawyer had filed a complaint about her disappearance with the Crimean prosecutor’s office, she has only been allowed access to a lawyer appointed by the authorities. The legal proceedings against her were officialised on 7 May without any member of her family being notified.
Danilovich’s father said she was probably abducted at a bus stop on the outskirts of Koktebel, a small town in eastern Crimea. He said he managed to view a service station video that showed a woman dressed like her being kidnapped by several men in civilian dress, who bundled her into a car. He told Krym.Realii that the police made no attempt to get the video from the service station, whose owner refused to give it to anyone other than the police.
A nurse by profession, Danilovich has been harassed ever since the height of the Covid pandemic because of her journalistic reporting on the Crimean health system’s problems, which she was posting on a public Facebook page. She also collaborated with Krym.Realii, the human rights news outlet Zmina.ua, the judicial violations outlet Crimean Process and the local website InZhir-media.
Vladislav Yesypenko, another journalist reporting for Krym.Realii in Crimea, was sentenced to six years in prison on a charge of “possession and transport of explosives” at the end of a sham trial on 16 February. He had no access to an independent lawyer, was tortured for two days after his arrest in March 2021, and made two forced confessions on a local TV channel.
Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index. Ukraine is ranked 106th.