The U.S. Government is deeply troubled by the decision of a court in Russian-occupied Crimea against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist Mykola Semena. He was convicted on separatism charges and given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence and a three-year ban on “public activities,” an apparent reference to journalism.
This conviction was based on the fact that Mr. Semena had criticized Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea in his writing. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, “We call on the Russian occupation authorities to vacate Mr. Semena's conviction, allow him to resume his journalistic activity, and cease their campaign to stifle dissent in Crimea.”
Semena, a contributor to RFE/RL's Crimea Realities, was arrested on April 19, 2016, by Russian occupation authorities and charged with acting against the “territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.”
Semena says the accusation is politically motivated and that Russian authorities based their case on an inaccurate translation of one of his stories from Ukrainian into Russian.
RFE/RL President Thomas Kent condemned Semena's conviction as part of an orchestrated effort by Russian authorities “to obstruct the journalistic mission of RFE/RL to provide independent news and information to Crimean residents.” He said the verdict “contradicts Semena’s fundamental right to free expression and international norms of justice,” and should be reversed.
The European Union has also expressed concern over the case, calling the verdict "a clear violation of the freedom of expression and of the media."
An EU spokesperson said in a statement that the verdict "represents another example of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Crimean Peninsula after its illegal annexation by Russia." The EU remains "unwavering in its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine" and calls for the charges against Semena to be dropped immediately.
Spokesperson Nauert reiterated the U.S. position that, “Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine, and the United States remains steadfast in its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”