UARU
Top Crimean Journalist Jailed by Russia Is Freed, on His Way to Kyiv
18 February, 2020
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Mykola Semena (R), a veteran Crimean journalist whom Russia illegally prosecuted in September 2017, has been freed and is on his way to Kyiv. Lyudmyla Denisova / hromadske

Mykola Semena, a veteran Crimean journalist whom Russia illegally prosecuted in September 2017, has been freed and is on his way to Kyiv.

This was announced by Ukrainian ombudsperson Lyudmyla Denisova on Facebook on February 18.

"[He] is finally on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government," Denisova wrote.

"He is safe and is on his way to Kyiv. I'm waiting for you here, friend!"

Hromadske has found out from its sources that prior to this, Semena's charges had been dropped. On April 19, 2016, a Russia-backed prosecutor in Crimea opened a criminal case against Semena based upon an article he wrote about Ukraine’s civic blockade of the peninsula.

READ MORE: Russia Finds Top Crimean Journalist Guilty of “Separatism”

The occupying Russian authorities in Crimea accused Semena of “threatening Russia’s territorial integrity”  and sentenced him to a 2.5-year suspended sentence and 3 years of probation, during which Semena would be forbidden to engage in “public activity.” In practice, this meant he would not be able to work as a journalist.

However, 8 months later, the court upheld the sentence, but decreased the probationary period from three to two years.

READ MORE: Russia Decreases Sentence Against Crimean Independent Journalist

The nature of the case against Semena suggested that he was intentionally targeted by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The central evidence in the case was a series of screenshots taken of Semena’s computer desktop as he worked on articles. The FSB reportedly gathered the screenshots using a virus that infected the computer at Semena’s workplace, RFE/RL’s Krym Realii project and took the images.

For over 50 years, Semena has worked as a correspondent and photographer, most recently for publications like the Ukrainian newspaper “Den” (“Day”) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 

READ MORE: How Crimea Became a Testing Ground for Russia’s Surveillance Technology

/By Maria Romanenko