“As we’ve seen in the past, we expect Russia will try to force cooperation through intimidation and repression,” said a U.S. official who spoke on background on condition of anonymity. “These acts, which in past Russian operations have included targeted killings, kidnappings/forced disappearances, detentions, and the use of torture, would likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons,” the official said.
Russian authorities in Crimea should not contest journalist Vladislav Yesypenko’s appeal and should release him immediately and cease prosecuting members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday. On Wednesday, February 16, a court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-occupied Crimea, convicted Yesypenko, a correspondent with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on charges of possessing and transporting explosives, and sentenced him to six years in prison, according to media reports and a report by his employer. Yesypenko maintained his innocence throughout the closed-door trial, and testified on Tuesday that authorities “want to discredit the work of freelance journalists who really want to show the things that really happen in Crimea,” according to those reports.