Ukrainian journalist Stanislav Aseyev after his torturer's conviction: "His trial is the greatest success of my life".

The director of a secret prison in Russian-occupied Donetsk has just been sentenced by the Ukrainian courts to 15 years' imprisonment for "cruel treatment". Independent journalist Stanislav Aseyev, who was imprisoned and tortured there for more than two years, testifies for Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Two years after the start of the Russian invasion, this sentence marks a step forward in the fight against impunity for crimes committed against journalists


After more than two years of trial, the Ukrainian courts finally delivered their verdict at the beginning of January 2024: Denis Kulikovsky, the director of the secret prison known as “Isolatsia”, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for “cruel treatment”. Located in the occupied city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, and run by the Russian security service (FSB), the prison is infamous for the torture practised since 2014 on detained Ukrainian civilians, including the journalist Stanislav Aseyev, abducted in 2017 and accused of espionage”.

After returning to Kyiv as a result of a prisoner exchange in December 2019, Stanislav Aseyev worked with the investigative journalism group Bellingcat to locate Denis Kulikovsky in Kyiv in 2021 and to get him arrested. He also wrote a book about his two-and-a-half-year ordeal in “Isolatsia” prison and testified as a victim at Kulikovsky’s trial. Helping to get Kulikovsky convicted was “the greatest achievement of my life,” he tells RSF in the video interview.

“The conviction of ‘Isolatsia’ prison’s director shows that the fight against impunity is still possible even in wartime. Ukrainian justice and international justice must continue their efforts to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes of violence against journalists in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia since 2014.”

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk
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