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Russia-Imposed Court In Crimea Upholds Journalist Semena's Verdict


Journalist Mykola Semena
Journalist Mykola Semena

The top court in Ukraine's Russia-controlled Crimea region has upheld a separatism conviction against journalist Mykola Semena in a case that has been criticized by media freedom advocates and Western governments.

The court, which Russia calls the Supreme Court of Crimea, left the conviction and suspended 2 1/2-year sentence in place in its ruling on December 18.

At the same time, it shortened -- from three years to two -- the period of time during which Semena is prohibited from working as a journalist.

Semena, an RFE/RL contributor, was sentenced in a case described by rights groups and Western governments as politically motivated.

RFE/RL President Tom Kent condemned the verdict and sentence when they were imposed in September, describing them as "part of an orchestrated effort by Russian authorities in Crimea to silence independent voices."

A contributor to RFE/RL's Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities), Semena was arrested by the Russia-imposed authorities in April 2016 and charged with acting against the “territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.’’

Semena says the accusation was politically motivated and violated fundamental freedoms and that Russian authorities based their case on an inaccurate translation of one of his stories from Ukrainian into Russian.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have all condemned the trial and verdict.

Human rights advocates say Russia and the authorities Moscow has installed in Crimea conduct a persistent campaign of oppression that targets opponents of Crimea's annexation, including many among the region's indigenous Crimean Tatars, independent media outlets, and journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's government moved swiftly to seize control over Crimea after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power in Kyiv.

Russia sent troops without insignia to the Black Sea peninsula, orchestrated a takeover of government bodies, and staged a referendum that was widely considered illegitimate by the international community.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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