Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist, was detained in Moscow on September 30, 2016, on charges of espionage, and has since been detained in Lefortovo Prison. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims that Sushchenko is a member of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The court has repeatedly renewed the term of his pre-trial detention, and on June 4, 2018 the Moscow City Court sentenced Sushchenko to 12 years in a maximum security after finding him guilty for spying. On September 7, Sushchenko was freed from a Russian prison after three years of detention as part of a historic prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.
Roman Sushchenko has worked for Ukraine’s news service Ukrinform since 2002. Beginning in 2010, Sushchenko has been reporting for the agency from France. As Ukrinform’s Paris correspondent, Sushchenko not only covered the political, artistic, and cultural life of France but also exposed Russian propaganda in French news outlets. He was heavily critical of the Russian documentary Ukraine: Masks of the Revolution, broadcast on French TV, which many French reporters also vilified for misrepresenting the events of the Maidan.
On September 30, 2016, Sushchenko was arrested in Moscow on charges of espionage and was transported to Lefortovo Prison, where he is currently being detained. Sushchenko was charged under Article 276 of the Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of ten to twenty years imprisonment in a penal colony. The FSB alleges that Sushchenko is “a member of the principal intelligence services of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense,” a statement that Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has since refuted.
Sushchenko claims to have been visiting Moscow for personal reasons unrelated to his work at the time of his arrest. He says that he was subjected to psychological torture and was denied to right to call his wife. Russian authorities did not inform Sushchenko’s family, his employer, or the Ukrainian government of his arrest in contravention of international law. His wife only learned about his detainment three days after his initial disappearance.
Ukrinform has vouched for the journalist’s flawless reputation and claims the Kremlin’s espionage charges to be “a provocation.” Sushchenko’s French colleague Galia Ackerman calls him “one of the most active journalists whom I knew.”
September 7, 2019: Sushchenko is freed from prison after three years of detention as part of a broader prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia.
June 4, 2018: The Moscow City Court sentences Sushchenko to 12 years in a maximum security after finding him guilty for spying.
March 16, 2018: Moscow City Court extends the arrest of Roman Sushchenko on the first day of preliminary hearings. The terms of his confinement now stretch to September 16, 2018.
October 7, 2017: Russia’s FSB claims that Sushchenko is a member of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Ukrainian officials subsequently deny the allegation.
September 30, 2017: Sushchenko is formally charged with espionage. The court renews the terms of his detention.
July 13, 2017: Defense attorney Mark Feygin’s appeal of Lefortovo Court’s decision is rejected by Moscow City Court. At the start of the investigation, Feygin was forbidden to see Sushchenko for several days. According to Feygin, the investigative team intends to subject Sushchenko to a psychiatric assessment sometime in July 2017.
May 31, 2017: Sushchenko talks for ten minutes by phone with his son for the first time since his arrest.
October 1, 2016: Sushchenko was sentenced to two months in prison, and since then the sentence duration has increased multiple times.