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Crimean Journalist Asking For Separatism Charges To Be Dropped

RFE/RL Contributor Denies Russian 'Separatism' Charges
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WATCH: RFE/RL Contributor Denies Russian 'Separatism' Charges

Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributing reporter who faces separatist charges alleged by the Moscow-installed authorities in Ukraine’s Crimea region, has said he will file an appeal for all of the charges to be dropped when his trial begins.

A preliminary hearing into Semena’s case was postponed on February 17 and rescheduled for February 28 by a court in the Crimean capital of Simferopol.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service on February 17, Semena said his appeal will be based on both the norms of international law and Russian legislation.

He said he will argue that there is no evidence a crime was committed.

"The appeal will argue that the status of Crimea is not clear, even within the framework of the Russian Federation, and that this is a disputed territory which is the subject of an animated discussion all over the world," Semena said.

"Since this is the case, I have the right to participate in this discussion and express my point of view," Semena said.

Semena was detained in April and then released, but was ordered not to leave Crimea.

He faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the separatism charges, which are based on an article he wrote on his blog that was critical of Moscow's 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have expressed concern over Semena's case.

Rights activists say the charges and trial are part of a Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea.

Nina Ognianova, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said on February 16 that "criticizing authorities is not a crime."

Ognianova called on the region's Russia-backed authorities to "stop harassing journalists in Crimea."

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent has described the charges against Semena as "part of a concerted effort by Russian and Russian-backed authorities to obstruct RFE/RL's journalistic mission to provide an independent press to residents of Crimea."