WASHINGTON, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about wellbeing of the two Russian journalists, missing in Ukraine since Sunday, and demands their immediate release, Rachel Denber, Deputy Director for the Europe and central Asia division of the organization said.
“We are extremely concerned about wellbeing and safety of Evgeniya Koroleva and Maxim Vasilenko. If it is true that the Right Sector has taken them, and is still holding Koroleva and Vasilenko, they must release them immediately,” Denber told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Two journalists of the Crimean Telegraph newspaper, Koroleva and Vasilenko, went missing on Sunday in the area of the military operation in eastern Ukraine. Koroleva was allowed to make one phone call, during which she confirmed that they were detained not as regular citizens, but as journalists.
“There have been numerous cases in which journalists are abducted by either insurgent forces of DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic] and LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic] or the Ukrainian authorities, and now, according to the media reports by the Right Sector,” Denber said.
“If it was the Right Sector that has taken them, it can only be considered an abduction, because the Right Sector has no legal authority to conduct detentions,” she stressed.
“If they have been transferred to some legal authority, then that legal authority has to make immediately clear on what grounds these two journalists have been detained, and to give them an access to the lawyer and free them immediately,” Denber stressed.
She also emphasized that these abductions indicate that on both sides of the Ukrainian conflict there is a very low respect for freedom of expression and media freedom. Denber called on both parties and on the international community to take measures to change the situation.
“It is very important for the international community, for the organizations like Human Rights Watch, OSCE and the UN human rights mechanisms to speak out very strongly. Kiev's international partners should put a lot of sustained pressure on the government to change the situation, they need to make sure that journalists, who are just doing their job, don't suffer any consequences for it,” she underlined.
“It is also up to the Russian authorities to use the influence that they obviously have with the insurgents to make sure that they do the same, that they stop detaining and harassing journalists,” Denber concluded.
Two journalists of the Crimean Telegraph newspaper, Koroleva and Vasilenko, went missing on Sunday in the area of the military operation in eastern Ukraine. Later it was revealed that Vasilenko is also a freelance photographer for Agence France-Presse and the International Information Agency Rossiya Segodnya.
Koroleva was allowed to make one phone call, during which she confirmed that they were detained not as regular citizens, but as journalists by the representatives of the Right Sector.
The press service of the Right Sector could not either confirm or deny the information about Vasilenko and Koroleva’s detention. Andrei Krisko, a representative of a human rights mission in Crimea, told RIA Novosti on Monday that the journalists were safe and sound and stressed that the representatives of the Right Sector promised to hand over the detained journalists to police which are to “decide their fate.”
Another Russian journalist - Andrei Stenin, working for Rossiya Segodnya, went missing in eastern Ukraine on August 5. His whereabouts remain unknown.