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Imprisoned Ukrainian Journalist Sends Letter From Separatist Jail
19 September, 2017

Stanislav Aseev, a Ukrainian journalist imprisoned by the Russia-backed separatists controlling Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has managed to pass a letter to his mother through his lawyer.

According to the note, the journalist is in good physical and mental health, and has started writing a book while in captivity, Aseev’s friend Yegor Firsov, a former parliamentarian, wrote on Facebook.

Firsov also published an excerpt from the letter, which he says displays Aseev’s recognizable style.

Everything’s alright. Psychologically, I’m not losing my mind. I’m staying active. I even go for runs. There is not much space, but I have lots of time to myself. I try to imagine the seaside and remember my old [running] route. On the whole, memories here are an entire activity of their own.

One way or another, I always knew the handcuffs might one day snap shut. So I was partially prepared. I only regret forcing you to go through all this.

The rest of the letter is personal and also describes what Aseev would like his mother to bring him in jail,  Firsov wrote. Aseev reads a lot and requested that his mother bring more books — including those by Ihor Kozlovskiy, a professor and expert on world religions also imprisoned by the separatists of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR).

Additionally, Aseev expressed gratitude to the people who helped spread his story. “All his hopes are for a prisoner exchange,” Firsov wrote. “He believes there is no chance of freedom or a fair trial” at the hands of the DPR.

For several years, Aseev, a Donetsk local, wrote regular articles about life inside the DPR for pro-Kyiv publications. He published all his texts under the pseudonym “Stanislav Vasin” and took extensive security measures to remain undetected.

Read More: A Journalist Disappears in Occupied Donetsk

Then, on June 3, the journalist disappeared with hardly a trace. Nearly six weeks later, the DPR confirmed Aseev’s detention to his mother. Aseev stands accused of espionage, a charge for which rights activists fear he could face twenty years in prison or even the death penalty.

The DPR has not given international organizations access to Aseev and has limited his contact with family members.

Background: Political Prisoners in the DPR: Arrested in Donetsk, Aseev joined the ranks of Ihor Kozlovskiy and Volodymyr Fomichev. All three Ukrainians were illegally imprisoned by the DPR for realizing their right to freedom of expression, says Maria Guryeva, a press officer at Amnesty International Ukraine.

Kozlovskiy is a prominent Donetsk-based religious scholar, who was well known for his pro-Ukrainian views and involvement in a 2014 ecumenical prayer marathon for a united Ukraine in Donetsk. He was working on an article documenting how the separatist “republics” in Ukraine’s east had negatively affected religious minorities when he was arrested in January 2016. The DPR charged Kozlovskiy with espionage and manufacturing weapons after the separatist “investigators” reportedly found two hand grenades in his home. The DPR “authorities” subsequently sentenced him to nearly three years in prison, where he remains to this day.

By contrast, Fomichev was a Kyiv-based blogger and employee of the Centre UA non-governmental organization.  He was arrested in January 2016 by the DPR while visiting his parents in their native Makiivka for the New Year’s holiday. On August 16, 2016, Fomichev confessed to the improbable charge of bringing two hand grenades from Kyiv to Makiivka, likely believing he would be freed if he falsely admitted guilt. Instead, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

/By Matthew Kupfer