Russia has stepped up harassment of journalists in Crimea since invading Ukraine
Following Yesypenko’s six-year prison sentence in February, Russia multiplies fabricated cases for possessing or making explosives in Crimea. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court and the Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office about treatment of Irina Danilovych, the latest journalist to be prosecuted in Russian-annexed Crimea on a trumped-up charge of making or possessing explosives. She was subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and denial of the right to a fair trial.
“The grim series of fabricated charges and unfair trials continues in Crimea,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “With Russian control over news and information in the occupied territories reaching an unprecedented level, we are filing a complaint so that the Russian authorities can be held accountable for their crimes against Irina Danilovych. And we demand her immediate release.”
Danilovych was initially held for eight days in the basement of the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Simferopol from 29 April to 7 May while her family knew nothing of her whereabouts. According to her lawyer, she was subjected to lie-detector polygraph tests and other forms of psychological pressure while held incommunicado.
Her trial on a charge of illegally manufacturing or possessing explosives began on 22 August but has been suspended until October. She denies all the accusations brought against her, on which she is facing a possible eight-year prison sentence.
Danilovych has been harassed for years – and especially at the height of the Covid pandemic – over her coverage of serious problems with the Crimean health system for her own public Facebook page and for the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, among other media outlets. The FSB already arrested her in 2016 and 2017 but released her without charge each time.
Her trial testifies to an increase in repression in the Crimean peninsula since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February – an increase documented in reports by local NGOs such as KrymSOS. The methods used are similar to those deployed by the Russian army in Ukraine’s newly occupied territories. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
At least 14 of Crimea’s bloggers and journalists – including Vladislav Yesypenko, a journalist sentenced to six years in prison on 16 February on a charge of “possessing and transporting explosives” – are currently held in Russian prisons, according to the human rights organisation ZMINA.
The latest victim is Vilen Temeryanov, a journalist arrested on 11 August who is being held in Simferopol on a charge of participating in a terrorist organisation, which carries a possible 20-year jail term. He was covering political trials in Crimea for Crimean Solidarity, a news site specialising in documenting political repression, and for Grani.ru, a Russian exile media outlet. Another Grani.ru journalist, Remzi Bekirov, was sentenced to 19 years in prison on 10 March in a similar case.