July 9, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Woman reporter still held in Luhansk after six months

Reporters Without Borders condemns the continuing detention of Maria Varfolomeyeva, a young woman journalist who was arrested in Luhansk six months ago today by the authorities of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Arrested while taking photos of an apartment block on 9 January, she was accused of helping the Ukrainian armed forces to improve the accuracy of their artillery bombardments and of spying for the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist group Pravy Sektor. Her separatist captors subjected her to series of carefully staged and videoed “interrogations,” in which she could often be seen sobbing, and then “sentenced” her to 15 years in prison. “Maria Varfolomeyeva’s prolonged arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Arrested for taking photos, this journalist has been subjected to intense psychological pressure and then tried and convicted in a completely illegal manner. We call on Luhansk’s self-proclaimed authorities to free her at once.” A Luhansk native, Varfolomeyeva worked for the local news website Svobodny Reporter. She also often worked as a fixer for various national media, including Hromadske TV. Despite the fighting, she stayed in Luhansk to help her grandmother, who unable to leave because of her physical condition.