Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 05.06.2018
The hardline Putin regime sent an uncompromising signal, ten days before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Russia: there will be no let up in Russia’s war against Ukraine. On June 4, Russia ‘sentenced’ Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko to 12 years more as a hostage. Roman Sushchenko’s real ‘crime’ is that he is Ukrainian, he is an honest journalist, and he investigates the corruption schemes of Putin, the siloviki, and the oligarchy in Russia and in the ‘near abroad’ countries that Russia invades and occupies.
Russia supposedly convicted Roman Sushchenko of spying, but a trial held in secret that presented no evidence was a clear signal to the world that the Putin regime is not interested in legal soundness. Putin fears and hates Sushchenko because of his work as a journalist, and he want every other journalist to know that honest, investigative reporting about Russia, about Kremlin corruption, or about Russia’s war against Ukraine will not be tolerated.
Putin could have sent his brutal message any time he wanted, but he chose to do so only days from the start of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. The lesson will not be lost on journalists: leave integrity and honest reporting at the border if they dare to enter the territory of the Russian Federation.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, read the clear warning signs Putin is sending.. He took to social media to warn anyone reckless enough to attend the FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia: “Once again, I call on those going to #Russia for the #WorldCup, be aware of the risks and threats to avoid disaster.” There is a measurable risk to the liberty of any journalist who does not put out puff pieces about Russia and articles extolling the FIFA World Cup in Russia as a sporting event only. Going to Russia and not toeing the Kremlin line could prove to be a life-threatening mistake.
The cases of journalist Arkady Babchenko and journalist Roman Sushchenko illustrate the stark difference between defender-of-Europe Ukraine and invader-of-Europe Russia. The life of Arkady Babchenko was saved from Putin’s assassins by a ruse of the Security Service of Ukraine. The Russian-born journalist is free to continue to work as a journalist for ATR (Ukraine's Crimean Tatar TV) and two write the truth about Russia’s war against Ukraine and the corruption of the Putin regime. Roman Sushchenko was arbitrarily detained and fraudulently sentenced by Russia. The Ukrainian-born journalist is no longer free to write about Russia’s war against Ukraine and the corruption of the Putin regime.
June 1 and June 2 were international “days of action” to demand that Russia release all of the Ukrainian political prisoners of war it is holding, including Roman Sushchenko. 75 cities around the world held demonstrations, protests, vigils, and other events to try to shame Russia and to spur leaders of Western democracies to do something to stop Russia’s crimes against humanity. A boycott of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, especially by political leaders and government officials, was strongly urged.
No effort must be spared to free Roman Sushchenko. He stands for honest journalism and that’s the reason he is a hostage of the Russian regime of state terrorism. In his name, honest journalism must be practiced courageously in the face of Russia’s war against Ukraine.