Legal Case of the Week: Concerns that Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Yesypenko has been tortured after his ‘confession’ on television in Crimea.

Week-ending 26 March 2021

Credit : screenshot from the interview of Krym24 via Reporters without Borders

On 18 March 2021 a TV-channel in Russia-controlled Crimea broadcast what it calls an interview with Ukrainian journalist Vladislav Yesypenko, the Crimea correspondent of Krym.Realii, the local branch of US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), in which he ‘confessed’ to being a spy for the Ukraine Security Service. On 26 March 2021 Reporters Without Borders expressed concerns that the ‘confession’ was obtained under torture, citing ‘psychological and physical pressure’ Yesypenko was under and the ban on access to a lawyer. Reporters without Borders called for the release of Yesypenko and the dropping of all charges against him. The news website Human Rights in Ukraine reported that ‘Yesypenko has very clearly been beaten.’


Human Rights in Ukraine, 22 March 2021: A Russian-controlled Crimean TV channel has broadcast an ‘interview’ with Vladislav Yesypenko a week after the Ukrainian journalist was seized in occupied Crimea.  Yesypenko has very clearly been beaten and is almost certainly giving the answers demanded of him. This staged event on 18 March is tellingly similar to the ‘interview’ for Russian state TV which Stanislav Aseyev, the Donetsk journalist and writer, held and tortured by the Russian proxy ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ for two and a half years, has confirmed that he gave under duress. Yesypenko was detained together with a friend on 10 May a day after they had laid flowers at the monument in Simferopol to the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.  His companion, Yelizaveta Pavlenko, was subjected to an eight-hour search, but was not detained.

 Reporters without Borders, 26 March 2021: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fears that detained Crimean journalist Vladislav Yesypenko’s televised “confession” to being a spy for the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was obtained under torture and calls for his release and the withdrawal of all charges against him. The Crimea correspondent of Krym.Realii, the local branch of US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Yesypenko was visibly pale and had difficulty talking when he made his confession– one almost certainly obtained under duress – in an interview for local Russian TV channel Krym24 that seemed more like a police interrogation. The interview was broadcast on 18 March, ten days after Yesypenko, who has Ukrainian and Russian dual nationality, was arrested in Russian-annexed Crimea by the Russian Federal Security Service (SFB). According to a source at his place of detention quoted by Graty, a Ukrainian media outlet specialising in police and judicial abuses, Yesypenko has been tortured. The lawyer chosen by his family has not been allowed to see him. The Crimean Human Rights Group, an NGO, says this suggests that the authorities are trying to cover up evidence that he has been mistreated.

RFE/RL, 26 March 2021: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it fears that a detained Crimean journalist’s televised “confession” to spying on behalf of Ukraine was obtained under torture and has called for his immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges against him. In a statement on March 26, Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, expressed concern about “the psychological and physical pressure” Vladislav Yesypenko has been subjected to. Cavelier also condemned the ban on access to his lawyer.

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Human Rights in Ukraine, 22 March 2021: A cassation court in Russia has overturned the previous court ruling in Russia’s persecution of  Yunus Masharipov and ordered a new appeal hearing, under different judges, in the ‘trial’ of the imprisoned 56-year-old rights activist.  This court saga will soon extend beyond the original four-year prison sentence passed on Masharipov, but this is only part of the Russian FSB’s revenge against a man who dared to retract the ‘confession’ they used torture to extract.  Masharipov has also become a victim of the punitive psychiatry which Russia is reinstating and could end up incarcerated in a psychiatric institution indefinitely.

RFE/RL, 24 March 2021: Authorities in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea have detained another Jehovah’s Witness amid an ongoing crackdown against the religious group. Russia’s Investigative Committee said on March 24 that a 30-year-old resident of the city of Kerch, whose identity was not disclosed, was detained on suspicion of being a member of the group, which was labeled as extremist and banned in Russia in 2017 but is legal in Ukraine.

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