Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Donbas unit reported on August 29 that Donetsk blogger Stanislav Aseyev is alive, and his release has been raised by monitors with the UN and the OSCE.
Aseyev, who reports for RFE/RL’s Donbass.Realii website under the pseudonym Stanislav Vasin, was captured by Russia-backed separatists in the region in June and accused of espionage. He has been threatened with a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
His name has been included by the Ukrainian government among those officially listed for a possible prisoner exchange under the supervision of the Minsk group, which oversees negotiations among the sides to the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern region.
Yehor Firsov, a former lawmaker and long-time acquaintance of Aseyev’s who first reported his disappearance and has been monitoring his detention, told RFE/RL that the UN and the OSCE have joined discussions over Aseyev’s release. Their requests to see him have been denied by separatist authorities.
Firsov told RFE/RL that he believes a decision on Aseyev’s release will be reached soon.
Oleg Kotenko, the head of Patriot, a civic group that advocates for the release of prisoners, believes the separatists may be taking a “pause” in the case to raise the price for his release and possibly exchange him for a Russian citizen.
"We try to fight for Aseyev formally and informally,” Kotenko said. “Officially [the negotiations are] in Minsk, but informally we make various alternative proposals for Stanislav’s exchange.”
Commenting on the charges against his friend, Firsov said, “The [separatists] capture a journalist and say that he is a spy from the Ukrainian side.” Aseyev, he said, “was writing notes and articles, and he had notebooks with his thoughts.” That “was enough to be jailed.”
Firsov says Aseyev is being held “in a basement” in Donetsk, a place “you can’t even call a prison.” He recently suffered from a lung condition, but after his mother was allowed to see him his health improved.
Numerous international monitoring groups, including Reporters Without Borders, The Committee To Protect Journalists, and Amnesty international, have condemned Aseyev’s detention and called for his release.
Separatists confirmed on July 16 that Aseyev was in the custody of their Ministry of State Security.