Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist, was detained in Moscow on September 30, 2016, on charges of espionage. He has been detained in Lefortovo Prison since then; the court has repeatedly extended the term of his pre-trial detention, and the most recent extension ends on September 30, 2017.
Sushchenko has worked in Ukraine’s news service Ukrinform since 2002, and since 2010, he 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. Thus, he criticized 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 (under article 276 of the Criminal Code, which provides for ten to twenty years of imprisonment in a penal colony), and was transported to Lefortovo Prison, where he is currently being detained. The FSB called the journalist “a member of the principal intelligence services of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense,” a statement that Ukraine’s Defense Ministry refuted.
Sushchenko claims to have visited Moscow for personal reasons unrelated to his work. The journalist says he was subjected to psychological pressure, and was denied to right to call his wife. The Russian authorities did not inform Sushchenko’s family, his employer or the Ukrainian government of the journalist’s arrest, thus violating international law, and his wife only learned about his detainment three days after it happened.
On October 1, 2016, Sushchenko was sentenced to two months in prison, and since then the sentence duration has increased multiple times. On June 27, 2017, Lefortovo Court prolonged Sushchenko’s arrest until September 30. Defense attorney Mark Feygin’s appeal of Lefortovo Court’s decision was rejected by Moscow City Court on July 13, 2017. At the start of the investigation, the attorney was initially forbidden to see Sushchenko for a few days. According to Feygin, the investigative team intends to subject Sushchenko to a psychiatric assessment sometime in July 2017.
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.”
On May 31, 2017, Sushchenko talked for ten minutes by phone with his son for the first time since his arrest.