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Ukraine Deports Russian Journalist For 'Damage To Ukraine's Interests'

Russian journalist Maria Stolyarova (file photo)
Russian journalist Maria Stolyarova (file photo)

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has announced the deportation of a Russian journalist for "committing acts that harm the interests of Ukraine."

The journalist, Maria Stolyarova, who had been embroiled in a controversy since using profanity on-air late last week, is barred from entering Ukraine for five years.

SBU spokeswoman Olena Hytlyanska shared the announcement on her Facebook page on February 24 that Stolyarova got a "one-way ticket" out of Ukraine.

Stolyarova, who had been working in Ukraine since 2015, was sent to her native Russia under the supervision of SBU personnel.

The Security Service also published a two-minute video showing officers at the airport reading Stolyarova the deportation order, which she signs before leaving the room with an accompanying officer.

WATCH: Maria Stolyarova Receives A Deportation Order (natural sound, no English subtitles)

The SBU began their investigation into Stolyarova, who worked as an executive editor of a news program broadcast on Ukraine's national Inter TV channel, after she was heard behind the scenes during the February 21 broadcast. As the program's correspondent was interviewing relatives of activists killed during 2014 Euromaidan protests, Stolyarova's voice could be heard saying, "Let's end with this s**t."

Some Ukrainian viewers expressed outrage, viewing her language as a sign of disrespect toward the dead protesters, who in Ukraine have been dubbed the "Heavenly Hundred."

"Shame on Inter, as long as Stolyarova works there," Ukrainian political analyst Taras Berezovets wrote on Twitter. "Shame on Ukraine, as long as Inter is unpunished for offending the memory of the Heavenly Hundred."

Stolyarova has said the incident was misunderstood. In a Facebook video, she said the moment had actually been a technical mistake -- she was speaking to her colleagues and by accident pressed the wrong button. She published a video from the newsroom in an effort to prove it.

"Yes, really, there was an irreparable technical mistake on air," she said. "This was my mistake. It's a pity for a person who has been working on TV for 17 years, but it's not deadly, because it was live, four stages at a time. Believe me, it's terribly, terribly nerve-racking."

Two days after the incident, on February 23, Inter, a network widely seen as having a pro-Russian bent, published a statement saying that Stolyarova was not directly affiliated with the channel and that a separate company, National Information Systems (NIS), produces the program.

"Inter considers it unacceptable that explicit language was broadcast. It imposes full responsibility for what happened on NIS, since the technicality of live broadcasting doesn't allow the channel to eliminate errors of a program's producers," the statement reads.

Stolyarova terminated her contract with NIS the day after Inter's statement, but that was not enough for many Ukrainians, who quickly began investigating Stolyarova's past.

'Very Polite' Separatists

Ukrainian journalists investigating her social-media accounts reported that while working for Russian RenTV channel and covering the Moscow-backed conflict in eastern Ukraine, she often expressed favorable views of pro-Russian separatists.

Among the images retrieved by journalists from the private Facebook posts (in which she uses the first name "Matilda") are several photos of her with separatists in Donbas. In one, dated May 2014 when the conflict was at a boiling point, Stolyarova is surrounded by three armed men in camouflage -- allegedly all members of a separatist battalion. The caption reads: "The very polite Vostok battalion. My favorite guys in Donetsk!"

Russian soldiers who invaded and occupied Ukraine's Crimean peninsula ahead of its eventual forced annexation in early 2014, were originally referred to as "little green men" and later given the "polite people" moniker in an attempt to improve their image.

In another post from March 2014, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a document annexing Crimea despite international outrage, Stolyarova claimed that "for her family Crimea has always been Russia."

After those posts went public, Stolyarova told Ukrainian website Detektor Media that her job at the time required her to share posts in support of pro-Russian separatists.

"Let's not forget that I am a public person. I needed to gain trust and my posts, as well as photographs, could have been dictated by that," she said.

Stolyarova added that her actual views are different, but she did not specify.

"The fact that I left [Russia] after resigning [from RenTV] proves that everything in my life has changed. After you spend three months at war here and there, you begin to see things differently," she said.

Some journalists in Ukraine who write for foreign media outlets have criticized the SBU decision to deport Stolyarova.

According to the Russian Medizaona website, 136 Russian citizens are currently under investigation in Ukraine in connection with the conflict in eastern Ukraine. More than half of them are on Ukraine's wanted list.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, 72 percent of Ukrainians have an unfavorable opinion of Russia.

Yevhen Holovakha, deputy director of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, told Tyzhden magazine that two-thirds of Ukrainians have anti-Russian sentiments and consider Russia to be an aggressor, while more than 80 percent consider Russia to be an enemy.

"A psychological wall between Ukraine and Russia is already built," he said.

About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.

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