Crimean journalist Vladislav Ysibenko is in crisis Russian Prison after he said he was subjected to a series of grueling torture sessions.
RFE / RL, an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the US Congress, is the largest target on the Kremlin’s list of inappropriate sources of information. It provides standalone coverage that is drastically different from that of State-controlled media, Including coverage of anti-government protests, and has the largest audience of any international media outlet operating in Russia.
The RFE / RL’s popularity and journalistic independence don’t mesh well with the Kremlin or its large number of loyal promoters. The Russian state media consistently represents the organization as a nefarious tool of US intelligence agencies.
The case of Vladislav Yesipenko, who worked in the Ukrainian service of the RFE / RL, is directly in the Kremlin’s agenda to eliminate independent media coverage that is not controlled by the Russian regime. In March, he was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) after covering an event honoring Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Yesypenko did not resist the arrest, but was dumped nonetheless. The ground, face down, while his car was searched.
His wife, Ekaterina Yesipenko, believes this was done in order to plant a hand grenade allegedly “found” in her husband’s car. In a painful video, she said Advertise Her husband acquitted her and demanded his immediate release.
During Yesypenko’s first appearance in front of a closed court, the journalist Advertise He was beaten and tortured with electric shocks in order to extract a false confession, which he immediately did refute He requested a withdrawal during the same session. Yispenko reported that his jailers threatened to kill him and make his death appear to be a suicide, unless he agrees to admit to the crimes he says he did not commit.
After two days of torture, Yesypenko says he was forced to say that he spied for Ukraine. Before he was allowed to see a lawyer, Russian state television journalists arrived to videotape the confessions. Yesypenko was given a written script to read aloud and forced to answer questions the way his jailers asked.
In addition to the allegations of “espionage”, Yesypenko is facing charges of illegally manufacturing firearms due to the grenade he claims had suddenly appeared in his car at the time of his arrest. The reporter denied making or possessing such a device and analyzing fingerprints Failed To locate Yesypenko’s fingerprints on the weapon. If found guilty on firearms charges, Yesypenko could remain in Russian prison for up to six years; If convicted of espionage, he could face as many as 20.
Targeting Yesypenko is just one of several ways the Kremlin is trying to force RFE / RL out of Russia. The organization’s bank accounts have been frozen and face heavy fines by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, exceeding $ 2.4 million, as a result of being branded a “foreign agent” and refusing to comply with its news content classification requirements.
Since October 2020, Roskomnadzor has ordered broadcasters designated as foreign agents to add a lengthy statement to news reports, social media posts, and audio-visual materials specifying that the content was created by an outlet that “performs the functions of a foreign agent”. As an editorially independent organization, RFE / RL has refused to publicly describe itself as an agent of the US government.
To date, the Russian courts have promptly dismissed the appeals regarding the exorbitant fines filed by RFE / RL. This month, Russian court attendants arrived at the RFE / RL office in Moscow to notify the organization to start enforcement proceedings against the company for its rapidly increasing fines. If the fines continue to be imposed at the current rate, they will likely reach nearly $ 33 million by the end of 2021. If not paid, the Russian authorities have the authority to place the RFE / RL into bankruptcy and block access to the news organization’s media sites. The director general of the Moscow RFE / RL office, Andrei Shari, could face up to two years in prison and personal bankruptcy.
Yesypenko’s arrest brought extreme terror and heartbreak to his family, haunted by a history of political oppression. Larisa Krupina, Ycebenko’s sister, who is a journalist herself, told The Daily Beast that her grandfather was exiled to the Urals with his wife and children. After years of forced hard work, Yesypenko’s great-grandfathers died in exile. He accused their grandfather of being an “enemy of the people” and shot him for allegedly making anti-Soviet statements. Larisa remembered her brother’s 45th birthday, when Vladislav told her, “All our lives are still ahead, but our grandfather was shot when he was only 42 years old! Those were bad times.”
But troubled times are back with vengeance, as Putin’s Russia returns to the ways of the past. “We couldn’t even imagine a return to that terrible Stalinist era, and that totalitarianism, the dark legacy of the Soviet Union, is still alive,” Larissa told the Daily Beast. “Taking our grandfather we found wasn’t enough. Now they want to take Vlad. The methods are painfully similar. Ludicrous accusations, lack of access to independent lawyers, inhuman torture. Going back to 1937, as if the past 84 years had never happened.”
The unprecedented actions of the Russian government will have a profound chilling effect on what remains of the independent media in the Russian Federation. This is the culmination of years of efforts by the Kremlin to restrict our access to the Russian public. They apparently view us and other independent media as a threat so great that we shouldn’t even be allowed to maintain a physical presence in Moscow, ”RFE / RL President Jimmy Fly told The Daily Beast.
To impede the RFE / RL and deter Russian citizens from working in the media outlet, the organization’s local freelancers have been categorized as individual “foreign agents”, forcing them to identify themselves as such in all electronic communications, and to file wide-ranging financial disclosures to authorities.
On the Wednesday broadcast of his night program, state TV presenter Vladimir Soloviev Student That all RFE / RL freelancers are publicly named and categorized as individuals receiving money from foreign governments. To make matters worse, the Russian authorities are inciting mock criminal prosecutions against RFE / RL reporters – with the aim of destroying not only their livelihoods and reputation, but their lives and freedom.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in public statements: Described RFE / RL as “Trumpets for US Government Propaganda.” On a government TV news talk show 60 minutes Last Wednesday, Nikolai Starikov, the head of the hard-line conservative Great Motherland Party, was unfounded claimed The RFE / RL is directly affiliated with the CIA. Host 60 minutes, Evgeny Popov, RFE / RL criticized it as a “State Department landfill” – an expression that is It is often used On air and in his social media posts.
However, the media remains unwilling to comply with reporting in Russia.
“The production of RFE / RL press and content in Russia is the product of an extensive network of brave contributors,” said Fly. “We have worked with freelance journalists in Russia for decades, and we will do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of those who work with us – regardless of what the Kremlin does to undermine these Russians’ rights to allow the public to serve their fellow citizens.”
Domestic and international support is what gives strength and hope to Yesypenko and his family. His wife Ekaterina told The Daily Beast that moments of dark despair are overcome by messages of support flowing day and night, for which the family is forever grateful. The abuse of the journalist has received worldwide condemnation, including who US Department of State, The European and international federations of journalists, And the Reporters Without Borders, Among others.
Despite what he’s been through, the journalist still tries to cheer his family in a series of letters – even promising his young daughter that he will eventually write her a story about prison to explain everything that has happened. “I can only imagine the characters in him,” said Vladislav’s wife, marveling at her husband’s strength and humor.
Ekaterina shared, “Our 6-year-old daughter has grown up a lot over the past two months.” When the child saw the video of her father’s arrest, she refused to be removed from the television set. “I want to see what is left of it,” she said. “I want to see my father rise and stand up.”