PRAGUE -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) condemns today’s sentencing of RFE/RL freelance journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko to six years in prison by a Russian-controlled court in occupied Crimea.
Said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly, “This judgement against Vladyslav is a travesty. As a journalist doing nothing more than reporting the facts, he should never have been detained in the first place, much less put through the physical and mental torture that he has endured over the past eleven months. Vladyslav needs to be returned home to his wife and daughter immediately.”
Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in Simferopol on March 10, 2021, on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence. Yesypenko left Crimea for mainland Ukraine with his wife, Kateryna, following the 2014 Russian annexation, where she gave birth to their daughter, Stephania; he would later return to Crimea periodically to report for RFE/RL on the social and environmental situation on the peninsula.
Following his detention, Yesypenko was brutally tortured by Russian FSB officers, to force him to make a false ‘confession’ on Russian television. Yesypenko was formally charged with possession and transport of explosives on July 15, 2021. He pleaded not guilty, facing up to 18 years in prison if convicted. The indictment made no mention of espionage or work for Ukrainian intelligence, as stated previously by the FSB.
Speaking at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on October 21, 2021, Yesypenko’s wife read out an appeal from her husband. In the letter dictated from his jail cell, Yesypenko called on U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers to do more to free the more than 100 political prisoners detained by the FSB over their activities in Crimea.
Sixteen Ukrainian human rights NGOs, Ukrainian Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova, and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv have denounced the verdict in online statements, as has Reporters Without Borders. In December 2021 Amnesty International launched an online petition demanding Yesypenko’s immediate release. Press-freedom advocates, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the U.S. State Department, are among those who have called for the same in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.