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Pavlo Sharoyko

The head of Ukraine’s National Union of Journalists (NUJU) is demanding the release of a Ukrainian radio correspondent being held in Belarus.

NUJU Chairman Serhiy Tomilenko said on November 17 that UA: Ukrainian Radio correspondent Pavlo Sharoyko was arrested in Minsk on October 25.

"The detention was carried out by the KGB of Belarus,” Tomilenko said, adding that Sharoyko is only being allowed representation provided by the Belarusian authorities.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry confirmed Sharoyko’s detention and said the ministry’s Foreign Policy Department was taking measures to protect the journalist’s rights.

Interfax-Ukraine reported that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry would only confirm that Sharoyko was "accredited as a foreign journalist, but we have no [further] information and can't comment."

The journalist’s detention was first reported on November 17 by Zurab Alasania, director-general of the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine.

In a tweet, Alasania said the Belarusian Embassy had not responded to requests for information. He wrote that “unofficial information” indicated the journalist is being held on espionage charges, although that could not be confirmed.

The deputy chief editor of the radio station, Svitlana Mialyk, wrote on Facebook that Sharoyko was arrested in Minsk on October 25, citing his wife, Olena Sharoyko.

Olena Sharoyko herself said in a brief comment to UA: Ukrainian Radio that "I can't contact him. I can only write him letters."

Sharoyko added that Belarusian authorities had told her nothing.

Tomilenko said his group is also attempting to contact the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv and the Ukrainian Embassy in Minsk.

He added that the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, and the OSCE representative on freedom of the media are being alerted.

Charter97.org quoted Sharoyko's colleagues as saying the journalist was working on stories related to the search for Pavlo Hryb, a Ukrainian citizen who disappeared in Belarus after being arrested and who was later found to have been sent to Russia.

"Journalists are killed and put behind bars in Belarus," said Natalya Radzina, the editor in chief of Charter97.org, a human rights organization.

"They are spuriously accused of extremism, insulting the president, [and] organizing riots," she added.

With reporting by AFP
Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail in 2009. (file photo)

Lithuania’s parliament has passed new human rights legislation modeled on the U.S. Magnitsky Act, the 2012 law that infuriated Moscow and prompted a ban on Americans adopting Russian children.

The measure, which passed the Seim overwhelmingly, makes Lithuania the fifth country to adopt such legislation targeting Russians deemed to have committed either financial crimes or human rights violations.

The bill contains a list of 44 Russians, including Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin, who will face a travel ban and other measures.

The Magnitsky laws are named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in a Moscow jail in 2009 after suffering what his supporters said amounted to torture. Magnitsky had been jailed by Russian authorities after he helped uncover a $230 million tax fraud scheme. He was later convicted posthumously of the crime.

His employer, British-American investor Bill Browder, has also faced related criminal charges, and Russia has repeatedly sought his extradition.

The Kremlin reacted to the passage of the U.S. law by banning all adoptions of Russian children by American parents. In subsequent years, Russian officials with ties to authorities have conducted a shadowy lobbying campaign in Washington and elsewhere, seeking to undermine the accepted narrative of Magnitsky’s death.

The legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Dalia Grybauskaite in the coming days.

Aside from Lithuania and the United States, Canada, Estonia, and Britain have passed similar laws.

With reporting by the Baltic News Service

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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