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Bodyguards Attack RFE/RL Journalists, Ukrainian TV Crew At Kyiv Airport

Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk has close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk has close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

KYIV -- Journalists working on a joint project by RFE/RL and Ukraine's UA: Pershiy (First) television channel say they were attacked by masked bodyguards at Kyiv's Zhulyany Airport while working on a report about the arrival from Russia of Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Choice organization.

Mykhaylo Tkach, an RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent with the Skhemy (Schemes) project, said on Facebook that masked men attacked the journalists late on November 7 and prevented them from filming the arrival of the politician and his plane.

"They elbowed us, pushed us, tripped us, and kicked the camera out of our cameraman's hands twice," Tkach wrote. "They blocked our vehicle with a dashboard camera in it so that we were unable to film the landing of Viktor Medvedchuk's plane arriving from Russia and him passing through the terminal."

Tkach said the masked men appeared to be the same bodyguards who work for Medvedchuk at Zhulyany Airport whenever he boards flights for Moscow or returns from visits to Russia.

Bodyguards Attack Journalists Covering Ukrainian Politician
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The chief editor of the Skhemy project, RFE/RL journalist Natalia Sedletska, said Medvedchuk's bodyguards had been trying to disrupt her team's work for several weeks.

"This is the latest in a series of recent attacks targeting journalists with our investigative team Schemes, with the evident intent to intimidate them and deter their reporting,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent.

"We demand a thorough investigation to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable, and a credible response from the Ukrainian government to stop these attacks and ensure that our journalists can do their jobs safely and without fear," he added.

Medvedchuk is a Ukrainian politician who has close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He is a regular participant in negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

There were no immediate official statements from Medvedchuk or from Ukrainian authorities about the reported attack.