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Ukrainian Journalist Pleads Not Guilty At Russian Espionage Trial

Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko has been held in custody by Moscow since 2016. (file photo)

Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, whom Russia has charged with espionage in a case seen by rights activists as politically motivated, has entered a not guilty plea as his trial began in Moscow.

Sushchenko's lawyer, Mark Feigin, wrote on Twitter that the Moscow City Court started the trial on March 27, and that his client pleaded not guilty.

Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent of the Ukrinform news agency, was detained in Moscow in 2016 on suspicion of collecting classified information.

Kyiv and rights activists say Russia has jailed several Ukrainians on trumped up, politically motivated charges since Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

A year ago, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

The list included Sushchenko and filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a Russian prison after being convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in a trial supporters called absurd.

The list, which the parliament statement said was not complete, also included several leaders of the Crimean Tatar minority, which rights groups say has faced abuse and discrimination since Russia's takeover.

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