Russia detains a minimum of 32 Ukrainian journalists

Russia detains a minimum of 32 Ukrainian journalists

At least 91 media workers have been killed since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Such data are provided by the Institute of Mass Information and the international human rights organization “Reporters Without Borders”. Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute of Mass Information, believes that Russia's actions against journalists are a sign of genocide, as citizens are filtered according to a certain parameter, namely, according to their activities.

In April, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution urging international organisations, the United Nations and the OSCE to put pressure on Russia to release illegally detained journalists and media workers. According to the European Federation of Journalists, Russia is the leading jailer of journalists in Europe.

Russia has been detaining and imprisoning Ukrainian journalists since 2014, when it occupied Crimea (Qırım) and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Stanislav Aseyev, Valeriia Karpilenko, Yevhen Shybalov, Serhii Lefter, Iryna Dubchenko, and others have been held captive. 

Journalist and activist Maksym Butkevych joined the Ukrainian Defense Forces in February 2022. In June 2022, he was detained by the Russians in the temporarily occupied Luhansk region. In March 2023, the "Supreme Court of the Luhansk People's Republic" sentenced Butkevych to 13 years in prison for "cruel treatment of civilians and prisoners of war". Since August 2023, Butkevych has reportedly been in a colony in the Luhansk region.

On August 20, 2023, the Russians detained RIA Melitopol journalist Anastasiia Hlukhovska. She was accused of "calls for terrorist attacks, treason and espionage". The journalist faces up to 20 years in prison. On October 29, 2023, Russian propaganda media published a story accusing Anastasiia of terrorism. Since then, there has been no news of her.

Crimean Tatar citizen journalist Osman Arifmemetov was detained by Russian special services in 2019 in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir (an international Islamic political party recognised as a terrorist organisation in Russia — ed.). He was sentenced to 14 years in a maximum security prison for "terrorism". 

"Crimea (Qırım) has turned into an information ghetto, where the work of professional media is challenging and dangerous. However, someone has to talk about repression and persecution. Citizen journalism emerged under these conditions. People who had never had anything to do with the media took their phones and tablets and started filming. Very quickly, they became practically the only source of truthful information from the occupied Crimea," Osman Arifmemetov writes in his letters.  

On May 6, 2023, the Russians kidnapped Iryna and Heorhii Levchenko in the temporarily occupied city of Melitopol. Iryna was a retired Ukrainian journalist by the full-scale invasion. The Russian occupation authorities accused them of "terrorism," separated from each other, and keep them in custody. Iryna's sister, Olena, said the most recent news she received from Heorhii was in the summer of 2023. He wrote that they were being held in a torture chamber, beaten, and poorly fed. Since then, nothing has been known of their fate.

In 2022, in the temporarily occupied Starobilsk, militants of the militant group "LPR" kidnapped a spokeswoman, Yuliia Rybalka. She was accused of "passing information to the Ukrainian Armed Forces to direct missile attacks". The woman faced up to 20 years in prison. Currently, nothing is known about her fate.

Oleksandr Petrakovskyi, a journalist for the Ukrainian News Agency, went missing in June 2024 while performing military duties near Chasiv Yar. From the first days of the invasion, he joined the territorial defence forces to defend his hometown of Irpin. During the two years of the war, Petrakovskyi became a junior lieutenant. He is survived by his wife and children.

In April 2023, Bohdan Bitik, a Ukrainian producer for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, was killed in a Russian attack on Kherson. He was wearing only a vest with "Press" written on it. Russian snipers ambushed the La Repubblica journalists as they got out of their car near the Antonivskyi Bridge. 

Maks Levin, a Ukrainian photographer, went missing in March 2022 in the Vyshhorod district near Kyiv. After the de-occupation of the Kyiv region, police found his body with a gunshot wound. Reporters Without Borders investigated his death and concluded that the Russian military had captured and executed Levin between March 13 and 31. The journalist is survived by his wife and four children. He worked for Reuters, BBC, TRT World, Associated Press, and hromadske.

Taras Davydiuk, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Rivne outlet, was killed in action on the outskirts of Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia region, on November 3, 2023. He was involved in the Revolution of Dignity and served in the volunteer battalion in the east of Ukraine. After the start of the full-scale invasion, he rejoined the Ukrainian Defence Forces. 

Yevhenii Sakun, a camera operator for the Ukrainian television channel LIVE, was killed during the shelling of the TV transmission tower in Kyiv by the Russian military on March 1, 2022. The Russians launched a missile attack on the television tower. Five people were killed, including Yevhenii. "Now we have a personal score to settle with the occupiers," his colleagues commented on the cameraman's death.

These are just some stories of journalists killed and captured. The exact number remains unknown.