ACCUSED OF TREASON AND IMPRISONED WITHOUT TRIAL: JOURNALIST KIRILL VYSHINSKY RECOUNTS HIS HARROWING TIME IN A UKRAINIAN PRISON
Mint Press News: Eva Bartlett sat down with recently released Ukrainian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky. Vyshinsky endured 15 months of appalling conditions in a Ukrainian prison after being falsely accused of treason. WATCH the interview HERE
In November 2018, I became aware of the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, a Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor imprisoned in Ukraine without trial since May 2018, accused of high treason.
Soon after, I interviewed Vyshinsky via email. He described his arrest and the accusations against him as politically-motivated, "an attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to bolster the declining popularity of [then] President [Petro] Poroshenko in this election year."
Vyshinsky noted that his arrest was advancing the incessant anti-Russian hysteria now prevalent among Ukrainian authorities, as he holds dual Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. He noted that the charges against him, which pertain to a number of articles he published in 2014 (none of them authored by Vyshinsky), became of interest to Ukrainian authorities and intelligence services four years after they were published. To Vyshinsky, this supports the notion that neither the articles nor their editor were a security threat to Ukraine, instead, he says, they were a political card to be played.
In early 2019, I traveled to Kiev to interview Vyshinsky's defense lawyer Andriy Domansky about the logistic obstacles of his client's case. Domansky viewed the Vyshinsky case as politically motivated and expressed concern that he could himself become a target of Ukraine's secret service for his role in defending his client, an innocent man.
Domansky told me at the time,
The Vyshinsky case is key in demonstrating the presence of political persecution of journalists in Ukraine. As a legal expert, I believe justice is still possible in Ukraine and I will do everything possible to prove Kirill Vyshinsky's innocence."
To the surprise of those following the case against Vyshinsky, in late August 2019 he was released with little fanfare after serving more than 400 days in a Ukrainian prison but still faces all of the charges brought against him by the Ukrainian government and is "obliged to appear in court or give testimony to investigators if they deemed it necessary."
By early September, Kirill Vyshinsky was on a plane to Moscow. Despite never being tried or officially convicted, he found himself the subject of a prisoner exchange between the Russian and Ukrainian governments.
I interviewed Vyshinsky in Moscow in late September. He told me about his harrowing ordeal, the Ukrainian detention system, other persecuted journalists, and what lies ahead for him.
He also touched on the inhumane conditions he experienced in Ukrainian prisons. He noted that a pretrial detention center as we know it in Western nations is a very different entity in Ukraine and that Ukrainian prisons were so over-crowded that it was common for inmates to sleep in three shifts in order to allow enough standing room for inmates crammed into a cell.Ukrainian prisons like a "concentration camp"
Aleksey Zhuravko, a Ukrainian deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of V and VI convocations recently published photos taken inside of an Odessa pretrial detention center showing utterly unsanitary and appalling conditions. Zhuravko noted, "I am shocked at what was seen. It is a concentration camp. It is a hotbed of diseases."
Another Ukrainian journalist, Pavel Volkov, was subjected to the same types of accusations lobbed against Vyshinsky. Volkov spent over a year in the same pretrial detention center as Vyshinsky. He was arrested on September 27, 2017, after Ukrainian authorities carried out searches of his wife and mother's apartments without the presence of his lawyer and with what he says, was a false witness.
Volkov spent more than a year in a pretrial detention center on charges of "infringing on territorial integrity with a group of people" and "miscellaneous accessory to terrorism." On March 27, 2019, he was fully acquitted by a Ukrainian court.
Volkov shared his thoughts on the persecution of journalists in Ukraine, saying: