MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) — Ukraine’s top-ranking officials, as well as a number of Ukrainian bloggers openly accuse missing photographer Andrei Stenin (#freeAndrew) of torturing and even murdering a Ukrainian soldier.
“This person was witnessing torture and murder in Shakhtarsk. The whole world was outraged by the pictures capturing first a living but wounded soldier, and then the same one, but already dead. We think Andrei Stenin is likely to have abetted terrorists. This is no longer journalism, but aiding and lauding terrorism”, concludes Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to Ukraine’s minister for internal affairs, in an interview to Latvian radio station Baltkom.
It took the Ukrainian government over a week to admit that Andrei was, in fact, captured by the Ukrainian special services, and held in a location still undisclosed.
The pictures Mr. Gerashchenko referred to were probably those of the “crying paratrooper” Andrei Panasyuk, from the Dnepropetrovsk 25th airborne group.However, one quick glance at the photos arranged in a logical order would be enough to see that in all of them the soldier is alive. In the picture with his supposedly dead body, the soldier’s arm is bent, and he is squeezing a cigarette butt with his fingers.
In the next picture the cigarette is missing, and the paratrooper is staring at the photographer.
Moreover, a video has been uploaded on the internet, showing the exact moment captured in the above mentioned shots, with no one torturing or killing Parasyuk.
In another footage the soldier lies on a hospital bed and tells journalists how deeply grateful he is to the Donetsk self-defense units, who helped him by calling an ambulance and providing first aid after he got wounded. The Donetsk soldiers even offered Parasyuk a cigarette, he says.
There is also a video capturing the instant Panasyuk was handed over to his mother in the war prisoner exchange. During the drive he says he has been treated well, given painkillers and provided with good medical assistance.
In the interview with Baltcom, Ukrainian minister advisor Gerashchenko admits that he has no evidence of Andrei Stenin’s crimes, but he “thinks that Stenin is linked to terrorists”. Mr.Gerashchenko thus relies solely on his intuition and does not find direct evidence sufficiently convincing.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential human rights council, has called the allegations implicating Stenin’s involvement in terrorism ludicrous and absurd. Those who claimed Stenin had anything to do with terrorism, should first look up the definition of the word, he added.
Russian war photographer Andrei Stenin went missing while on a mission in eastern Ukraine on August 5. He has been reporting on the raging conflict from the cities of Donetsk and Slaviansk among others.
A number of international press freedom watchdogs have expressed their concern over the incident, condemning any abduction or forced disappearance of media workers. Reporters Without Borders, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists have called for Kiev to clarify Stenin’s status, as well as to unconditionally free him.
“If Ukrainian authorities are indeed holding the journalist, they should release him immediately and allow the media to cover events freely," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova was quoted as saying.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have also issued similar statements calling for Stenin's immediate release.
“We join our Russian affiliate, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), to express our serious concern for the well-being of our colleague Andrei Stenin, IFJ President Jim Boumelha stressed. “If he has been detained in Ukraine then we appeal for whoever is holding him to release him immediately,” Boumelha’s statement posted on the IFJ website read.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is no less concerned about the lack of information on the Russian photographer’s location:
“If he [Stenin] was detained, they have to press charges. If he is not accused of anything, then he has to be freed … All this was not done, the location of the man is unknown, which raises our deepest concerns, in particular, because it is not the first case, when journalists end up in such situation,” Tanya Lokshina, HRW Russia deputy director, told RIA Novosti.
Please support Andrei Stenin’s release by sharing the hashtag #FreeAndrew in social networks. Andrei is a professional war photographer reporting from the most dangerous war zones in the world. You can view Andrei’s pictures from Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya here and his most recent shots from eastern Ukraine here.