Amnesty Launches Petition Demanding Release Of RFE/RL Journalist

Amnesty International has launched an online petition demanding the immediate release of RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has said he has been tortured while in detention in Russian-occupied Crimea since March.

Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to Crimea.Realities, was detained on March 10 on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence. The father of one daughter had worked in Crimea for five years reporting on the social and environmental situation there before being detained.

Russia has sought to crush dissent in Crimea, including prosecuting journalists and human rights activists, since seizing the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014.

"An officer of [Russia's Federal Security Service] FSB tortured Vladyslav with an electric shocker, beat and humiliated him. For almost a month, his lawyers were barred from seeing him. [If convicted]," he may face up to 18 years," Amnesty's petition said.

Yesypenko said earlier in court that he was tortured for two days from the moment he was detained until his transfer to a detention center in Crimea's capital, Simferopol.

In mid-July, a Russian-imposed court in Simferopol formally charged Yesypenko with the possession and transport of explosives. He pleaded not guilty.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has described the case as the latest example of the Kremlin's campaign to target independent media outlets and called it “a mockery of justice.”

Press freedom advocates, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the U.S. State Department, are among those who have called for Yesypenko’s immediate release in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.

In October, Yesypenko appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers to do more to free more than 100 political prisoners detained by Russia's FSB for their activities in Crimea.

Shortly after Russia illegally annexed Crimea, Moscow began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbas, in a conflict in which more than 13,200 people have died since April 2014.