Militiamen of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in Ukraine’s embattled Southeast on Wednesday freed journalists working for the Ukrainian internet television channel Gromadske TV (Public Television), the LPR’s press service told Itar-Tass.
“We confirm that the Ukrainian journalists were released,” an LPR spokesman said.
Gromadske TV correspondent Anastasia Stanko and cameraman Ilya Beskorovainy were freed on an order from LPR head Valery Bolotov.
According to Bolotov, “these people, apart from their journalistic work, gathered information on movement of LPR armed forces units and information on the location of our roadblocks.” He said “convincing proof was available that the journalists were involved in espionage.”
On July 1, Bolotov announced to journalists that Stanko and Beskorovainy had been detained. He added that investigative activities were being held with them, “their condition is satisfactory, they are being treated in a humane way.”
The head of the Lugansk Republic said Wednesday the reporters had been neither humiliated, nor subjected to physical or psychological pressure.
“The heads of three leading Russian television channels asked me today to free the detained journalists,” Bolotov said.
“Taking into account the kind attitude of Russian media toward the LPR and their objectivity in assessments of the situation here and assistance in breaking the information blockade, as well as being guided by the principles of humanism, we decided to release them,” he said.
“The LPR leadership treats journalists’ work and their professional duty with great respect. We are ready to cooperate with any media that accurately and objectively cover the current events,” the LPR leader said.
The Russian media executives mentioned by Bolotov were Oleg Dobrodeyev, who heads the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), Channel One general director Konstantin Ernst and NTV general director Vladimir Kulistikov.
“Regardless of the position of mass media and political views of journalists, their right to fulfill their professional duties should be ensured,” their open address said.
Pro-Kiev forces resumed fierce military attacks on Ukraine’s southeastern regions after President Pyotr Poroshenko, who had won an early presidential election on May 25 and taken office on June 7, ended the 10-day ceasefire in the Southeast on June 30.
When the truce between Ukrainian soldiers and southeastern militias was in place, it was reportedly violated by Kiev more than once.
At least three Russian journalists covering developments in Ukraine’s war-torn southeastern regions were killed in June.