Two Russian journalists working for LifeNews agency, detained by Kiev forces for almost a week, have been released and flown to Russia, according to the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.
“Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko are free! The plane carrying them set a course from Kiev for Grozny!” Kadyrov wrote in his Instagram along with a photo of the journalists aboard the aircraft.
The plane was waiting in Kiev ready to pick up the journalists and depart at a moment’s notice for over 4 days. The existence of that aircraft, chartered by the Chechen leader, was kept secret for the journalists’ safety, LifeNews reports.
The journalists will take some rest in Grozny, the Chechen leader said, and will fly to Moscow on Sunday to finally meet their relatives and friends after a weeklong detention.
The freed journalists thanked Putin and everyone, who helped get them out of detention. “Today is the happiest, one of the happiest days of our lives," says Sidyakin in the short clip.
Two Russian journalists working for LifeNews TV channel - reporter Oleg Sidyakin and cameraman Marat Saichenko - were captured by Kiev forces on May 18 near the eastern city of Kramatorsk.
For almost a week the detained journalists were being investigated on charges of “aiding the terrorist groups,” according to Kiev authorities, who refused to share any details of their whereabouts and denied a special observation mission to visit the detained Russian journalists.
The accusations of illegally transporting weapons and aiding terrorism against Russian journalists are “nonsense and delirium,” President Putin said earlier calling the situation “unacceptable” and warning that Kiev’s crackdown on reporters working in Ukraine will affect Moscow’s relations with the “new Ukrainian authorities.”
As the country prepares to hold early presidential elections following the February coup, a range of Russian news journalists from different outlets, including RT’s Spanish and Arabic news crews, accredited to cover the upcoming vote, were denied entry to the country without explanation.
The deterioration of the media climate in Ukraine was condemned by a number of NGOs and rights groups, including the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists that called on Kiev authorities to “stop equating conflict reporting with terrorism.”
Meanwhile the latest OSCE report stated that journalists are “continually been denied access to events and information, often by force” and warned that consequences, if the trend is not reversed, will be “too grave to even imagine.”
In the latest surge of violence, just hours before Ukrainians are set to go to the polls, a French photographer was wounded near the city of Slavyansk, while his Italian colleague and his interpreter are believed to be dead after they got caught in mortar shelling amid what the Kiev authorities call an “anti-terrorist operation” in turbulent eastern Ukraine.