WASHINGTON -- Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s war-torn eastern Donetsk region have confirmed that they are holding a blogger from eastern Ukraine who contributes to the Ukrainian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), according to a former Ukrainian lawmaker. The journalist, Stanislav Aseyev, who writes under the name Stanislav Vasin, first went missing on June 2.
Yehor Firsov, a long-time acquaintance of Aseyev’s, wrote on Facebook on July 16 that Aseyev's mother was allowed to visit him in separatist custody. Firsov also wrote that the separatists have accused Aseyev of espionage and threatened him with up to 14 years in prison.
Vasin also reports for other Ukrainian publications, including Mirror of the Week and The Ukrainian Week.
RFE/RL Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic said earlier that Aseyev’s detention, if true, is “deeply alarming and lawless,” and that he fears the blogger’s life could be at risk. “We demand that he be released immediately, and that his safety be guaranteed.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), have expressed concerns over Aseyev's whereabouts and condition, and said separatists must release him immediately if they are holding him.
Prior to his disappearance, Aseyev, who has referred to his efforts to chronicle daily life under conditions of war in the Donetsk region as “my education,” published unflinching texts and photos about current news and military developments, and posted about shopping, entertainment and culture both in separatist and non-separatist controlled cities. He has also covered such issues related to the conflict as reactions among Donetsk residents to the apparent assassination in October, 2016 of the notorious Russia-backed separatist commander known as “Motorola.”
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with a monthly average of over 4 million visits to its website in 2017, provides independent, accurate reporting about eastern Ukraine and Crimea on its award-winning Donbas Realities and Crimea Realities websites, and investigates government corruption on its internationally acclaimed TV program, “Schemes.”