Producer of Russian TV show vanishes in Ukraine as ‘saboteurs posing as journalists’ detained

Producer of Russian TV show vanishes in Ukraine as ‘saboteurs posing as journalists’ detained

Published time: April 24, 2014 16:23

A producer for a popular program on Russia’s NTV channel has disappeared in eastern Ukraine where he came to film a report unrelated to the country’s political situation.

Belarusian citizen Stepan Chirich, a producer for the weekly program Central Television, went to the city of Pershotravinsk in the Dnepropetrovsk region to make a report about the visit of a well-known exorcist, Pastor Bob Larson, who’s there as part of his world tour.

“We lost contact with [Chirich] on Tuesday evening,” Vadim Takmenyov, the program’s host, told RT. He said that at the beginning they did not ring the alarm, but now he has been missing for over two days the channel is doing everything possible to find the producer.

Chirich has been working for the program for several years.

“We sent him to Ukraine – a producer, not a correspondent – because he is the only Central Television employee who has a Belarusian passport, using which one can cross the [Russian-Ukrainian] border without any problems and do his professional activities,” Takmenyov said.

Takmenyov underlined that political events in the crisis-torn country were completely unrelated to that particular trip.

A cameraman who was working with the missing NTV producer was a Ukrainian citizen from Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine. There is no connection with him either and his relatives as well as employees have no idea what happened to him, the NTV journalist said.

The channel says that the disappearance of the crew might be connected with reports about the detention of two suspected Russian “saboteurs” in Dnepropetrovsk region. According to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, two men “pretending to be journalists” were grabbed by local militia and passed over to the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) after filming a police station and the city council in Pershotravinsk. Citing unofficial sources, the paper said the unnamed men had Belarusian passports, but equipment they used “indicated their relation to Russian intelligence.”

“We got through to the SBU. The only comment we managed to get was ‘No comment,’” Takmenyov said.

He said the channel sent to its colleagues in Ukraine documents proving that Chirich has nothing to do with any intelligence services.

“We hope [journalists in Ukraine] will report on [the incident] in one or another way, but fairly, and say that we are looking for our colleague,” the NTV journalist added in a telephone comment to RT.

Following the February coup in Kiev, Russian journalists and TV crews have repeatedly been denied entry to Ukraine on various pretexts.The new authorities also accused several Russian television channels of propaganda and ordered local cable providers to cut them off. Later, some providers – primarily in eastern Ukraine – resumed broadcast of Russian channels.

Earlier in April, the Russian upper house of parliament said in a statement that Russian journalists “are facing psychological and physical pressure in Ukraine” while the country’s online media reporting on the crisis “is being attacked by hackers.”

Last week, a journalist and a camerawoman for Russia’s LifeNews were detained and questioned for many hours by Ukraine law enforcers.

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