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Kyiv Court Releases Russian Journalist Vyshinsky From Custody Ahead Of Trial

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Russian Journalist Vyshinsky Freed Pending Trial In Kyiv
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WATCH: Russian Journalist Vyshinsky Freed Pending Trial In Kyiv

KYIV -- A Ukrainian court has ruled that Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who is in detention in Ukraine on high treason charges, can be released on his own recognizance as he awaits trial.

The Kyiv Court of Appeal handed down the ruling on August 28, saying he must inform the court about any change of residence and that he must refrain from any contact with witnesses in his case.

He will not be required to wear an electronic bracelet, it added.

Vyshinsky, the head of Russia's state-run RIA Novosti's office in Ukraine, was arrested in May 2018 and faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

His arrest came amid accusations in Kyiv that RIA Novosti Ukraine was participating in a "hybrid information war" waged by Russia against Ukraine.

Vyshinsky, who at the moment of his arrest had dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenship, was accused of allegedly receiving financial support from Russia via other media companies registered in Ukraine in order to disguise links between RIA Novosti Ukraine and Russian state media giant Rossia Segodnya.

Weeks after his arrest, Vyshinsky announced that he had given up his Ukrainian citizenship, called his arrest a "political order," and suggested that he was arrested in order to use him in a swap with Moscow for a Ukrainian being held in Russia.

Vyshinsky's lawyer, Andrei Domansky, told reporters after his client was released that the defense "will now work on his full acquittal."

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement to the Govorit Moskva radio station that Vyshinsky’s release is "the first step towards justice for the journalist."

Russian ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova told reporters in Moscow that she considers the court's ruling "a just decision without political grounds."

"It gives hope to further objective investigation of the case against the journalist," Moskalkova said.

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, also welcomed Vyshinsky's release, expressing hope that Ukrainian citizens held in Russia will be released as well.

"I welcome pre-trial release of RIA Novosti journalist Kirill Vyshinsky today in Kyiv, Ukraine. I called for his release and intervened on this many times. I call for the release of all other detained journalists and authors in OSCE region like [Ukrainian journalist Roman] Sushchenko and [film director Oleh] Sentsov in Russia," Desir wrote on Twitter.

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed Vyshinsky's release but said the charges against him should also be dropped.

The media freedom watchdog called on the Russian authorities to release Sushchenko, saying that journalists "should not be caught up in political disputes between Russia and Ukraine, and must be allowed to report freely and safely."

Sushchenko was sentenced to 12 years in a high-security prison in June in Russia on espionage charges that he says are politically motivated.

Sentsov, who openly protested Russia's illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, is serving 20-year prison term in Russia on terrorism charges, which he and his supporters have also rejected.

Unconfirmed reports said in recent days that Moscow and Kyiv were working on the release of Vyshinsky in exchange for Sentsov's release in Russia.

Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv have risen sharply since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and threw its support behind separatists in eastern Ukraine, helping start a war that has killed some 13,000 people.

Ukraine's pro-Western government is wary of Russian media outlets, accusing Moscow of distributing disinformation aimed at sowing tension and destabilizing the country. Kyiv has banned more than a dozen Russian television channels since 2014, accusing them of spreading propaganda.

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