PRAGUE -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is calling for the immediate release of Oleh Halaziuk, a contributor to its Ukrainian Service, who has been held by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region since August 2017.
Iryna Herashchenko, the deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and a former presidential envoy for the settlement of the Donetsk-Luhansk conflict, confirmed to RFE/RL that Halaziuk is being held in a detention center in Donetsk, and that his name has been included on an official prisoner list. "But the question of exchange was blocked by Russia,” she said.
Lina Kushch, first secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU), which has been monitoring his case, told Ukraine's Hromadske Radio that the Union has sought to find out why Halaziuk has been targeted. She suggested that he may have been involved in a dispute with authorities in the town of Torez, but said, "we aren’t aware of what he is being accused of and why he is being detained, as well as whether any ‘court procedures’ are planned.”
She said that no representatives of international organizations like the Red Cross or the UN Monitoring Mission have been allowed to see him.
In late 2018, Halaziuk’s relatives gave the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine permission to publish his name in the UN Monitoring Report on Human Rights.
Before he was detained in 2017, Halaziuk regularly blogged for the Donbas Realities rubric, Letters from Donbas, posting reports from Torez about gasoline shortages, the post office, and the conflict’s impact on ordinary people and children. Located east of the city of Donetsk, Torez has been held by Russia-backed separatists controlling the region since June 2014; Halaziuk was detained and tortured by the separatists that month for his pro-Ukrainian views, and released 18 days later.
Halaziuk’s first post for Donbas Realities addressed the situation in Torez one year after the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by Russia-backed separatists in July 2014. Three years later, he wrote about marking the third anniversary of the attack by walking more than 20 kilometers from Torez to the site where the plane crashed, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Prior to the conflict in 2013, he was beaten for painting graffiti in downtown Torez critical of then-President Viktor Yanukovych.
Halaziuk is one of three RFE/RL reporters targeted following Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian territory. Donetsk blogger Stanislav Aseyev has been held by Russia-back separatists since July 2017; Crimean contributor Mykola Semena was convicted of separatism in 2017 and is banned from practicing journalism and leaving the peninsula.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with a monthly average of 5 million visits to its website in 2018, sets a standard in the Ukrainian media market for independence, professionalism, and innovation.