Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The Ukrainian TV journalist Dmitry Vasilets was arrested by the SBU because he opposed the fratricidal war in Donbass.
We for a long time got used to news about political repressions in Ukraine, especially against representatives of the media. Hundreds of dissidents of the regime of “Maidan” still vegetate in behind the walls of Odessa, Kharkov, Kiev prisons – unknown, forgotten, without hope for a quick release.
One of such political prisoners is the journalist of “Channel 17” Dmitry Vasilets, the case of which was evoked a lot in the beginning, but recently they somehow forgot. The host of one of the few independent Ukrainian media outlets that fought against propaganda on television, founded his own “Goebbels anti-prize”, and revealed the colleagues that were flirting with nationalist power. In the autumn of 2015 he was arrested together with the programmer Evgeny Timonin by the SBU. Vasilets was even accused of terrorism – for relaying the Novorossiya TV channel, broadcasting from Kiev in the territory of the DPR and LPR. For this “terrible crime” the 30-year-old man risks 15 years of imprisonment.
Especially for the “Sovershenno Sekretno” newspaper the Ukrainian journalist Artyom Buzila, who spent about a year in the Odessa pre-trial detention center, contacted the journalist’s lawyer Denis Tsypin and transferred to him the questions for Dmitry. Without being afraid of subsequent repressions, Dmitry Vasilets sent the answers from his prison cell of the Kiev SBU.
It is said, you created the “Pravilnoye TV” channel on YouTube. And allegedly on this channel you wanted to relay other Internet television, a separatist one, as now it is forced to say in Ukraine, under the name “Novorossiya TV”?
“I salute from a SBU prison all of ours! My projects, such as “The museum of information war”, “Media lustration”, “What the mass media are silent about”, journalistic ” Goebbels anti-prize”, aimed to stop war and to point out to the audience who deceives them and how, in order for them to have immunity from propaganda of war and lying. But, probably, it was decided at the top that my audience of a couple of tens of thousands with immunity from Ukrainian propaganda will allegedly bring “harm to national security” and it is precisely for this reason I was slandered and imprisoned.”
How did the arrest happen? Were you beaten, was some pressure applied in one or another way?
“As there was resonance, I wasn’t beaten, but other methods of pressure were used, such as torture by cold. SBU employees took away from me warm things and brought me to solitary confinement completely without heating when it was –20 degrees outside for three days, it didn’t confuse them I had a temperature and acute bronchitis. But God gave me good health with obstinacy, and these ghouls didn’t succeed to break me. Also I was blackmailed with meetings with relatives, and of course other little things – threats of various forms of punishment, insults and so forth.”
It is such a serious threat that you presented to the Ukrainian power as an oppositional journalist?
“It appears, according to the act of accusation, I, with the IT specialist Timonin, created the transmitting YouTube service (I don’t understand why the Google company didn’t “give” to me as the founder of the YouTube channel my share of actions). It appears that I adjusted transmitting services during my three-day stay in Donetsk, and after a trip, already in Kiev, it appears I was recording those transmitting services which, it appears, I was adjusting in Donetsk. And it isn’t important for them that during my stay in Donetsk they didn’t exist yet. And there is a lot of such nonsense in their accusations. Therefore I understood at once that I was jailed for my human rights and journalistic activity.
That’s why the real reasons of my arrest is my criticism of the Ministry of Information Policy, and of the deputy Stets, Poroshenko being the Godfather of his daughter, for censorship and the privatization of truth. It is my programmes about corruption in social insurance funds, it is my exposure of mass bribery of voters in Chernigov in the summer of 2015 by the authorities during the mayor’s election by a candidate of the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko”. During a search the SBU confiscated all finished shooting material on this subject, we wanted to make the documentary “Live in a New Way” about bribery of voters. It is unlikely that I was arrested for my news website “Pravilnoye TV” because in the summer the 2014, employees of SBU came to my place with a request to introduce censorship on the site, to which I explained to them that the site is being filled like a social network, by different authors, and I have no opportunity to survey them.”
Your relation to the conflict in Donbass?
“I consider that this government, which came after “Maidan”, banally destroys Ukraine, and war in Donbass helps them very much in it. With help of foreign interference the conditions were created for our oligarchs to receive excess profit, and they receive it.
Of course, “colleague-journalists” had a hand in all this: it is precisely their lies, their propaganda of war and manipulations that became the base of war, and exactly for this reason knowing beforehand to where all this can lead, I created my projects, such as “Media lustration”, “The museum of information war”, in hope for rationality. But, alas, financially forces were unequal.”
Where you offered a deal with the investigation team for compromise?
“Yes, they offered – supposedly if I gave accusatory evidence against the leadership of “Channel 17”, that they “helped terrorists under ubiquitous control of already legendary in the Ukrainian media FSB of the Russian Federation”, we will record it on video for the media, then you will receive a conditional term. I, of course, attentively listened to all their sick fantasies, recorded and transmitted via a lawyer in the form of a letter to “Channel 17” for publication, where I listed all this nonsense – that the staff of SBU forced me without results to sound it on camera. I consider it necessary that the citizens of Ukraine know what nonsense our SBU is engaged in. After this I officially “sent” the investigator packing with his “requirements”, and explained to him that at “Channel 17″ the real patriots of Ukraine, unlike them, are working. SBU employees took offense and were upset with me, so for this reason they forbade me from meeting my relatives for seven months, breaking the law.”
What crimes are incriminated to the programmer Evgeny Timonin, who was detained together with you?
“Evgeny together with me went to Donetsk – at this time we wanted to organize correspondent office for “Pravilnoye TV”, and he was “closed” for this by SBU employees. They found on Timonin’s VKontakt page some posts and comments like “We won’t forgive beasts for Odessa”, “If you see a Right Sector member– kill him” therefore, unlike me, he was incriminated with two more articles – 258.2, and 161 (terrorism and violation of citizens’ equality based on their race, nationality or religious preferences).”
Why did most of the Ukrainian journalists suddenly turn into Goebbels?
“Most of adequate journalists were fired for refusal to cave in under the authorities, generally the poor excuses for journalists compelled to lie, kindle hatred, and to manipulate public opinion remained in work. It frightens that a part of journalists convinced themselves to the point that it becomes normal to mock at those colleagues who tried to prevent war or had another point of view. Pathetic and dimwitted people, what can we learn from them?! And that the fact that “TSN” [pro-Ukraine TV channel – ed] released a big crazy plot about me, I consider natural – I always called for the peace, and they always called for war, and I constantly caught them out on it, so they decided to revenge, having slung mud at me and having assisted in my arrest.”
At what procedural stage is your case now?
“Now my case just reached court, the first hearing took place, they started listening to witnesses from the SBU, who Timonin, under the nickname Ded Mazay, allegedly on VKontakt offended and intimidated! And it not a fake, I don’t joke, it is our Ukrainian court! No wonder that the prosecutor’s office went out of its skin in order so that hearings, in fact, passed behind closed doors, but, fortunately, my colleagues from OSCE succeeded the right for open proceedings. Now, I hope that judges will study the case files, will become reasonable, and change for me and Timonin the measure of restraint at least to house arrest. If judges are mentally healthy and aren’t engaged, only a not-guilty verdict must follow.”
What living conditions do you have in your cell? Are you in a “single” cell? What kind of people surround you?
“Conditions in my cell, I think, are as all prisoners in the most high security. I am for them kind of like an “information bin Laden” therefore I am kept as especially dangerous. There is no heating, in the cell with me is one person under the article for murder of high cruelty, but we have no problems and get on normally.”
Recently the UN published a report on special prisons of the Security Service of Ukraine. The Ukrainian law enforcement authorities assure that no prisons of this sort are present in the country. Although there was news that after this report, from these same prisons more than 10 people were released. What is really happening in these prisons?
“About secret prisons of SBU I can only say that this is the purest truth because I myself have been sitting here for nearly a year, for unknown reasons at the fault of the SBU. In my opinion they followed procedure, wrote a lot of papers, issued everything by the book so the order for jailing is fulfilled adequately. But when the SBU worked for the justification of its existence, “barring” everyone for quantity in order to then bravely report how they “saved the galaxy from separatism”. With procedure of visibility of legality they didn’t succeed, so they were keeping people just like that until the UN arrives. The difference between secret and non-secret prisons of SBU is not really big: both here and there innocent people are sitting. Just in secret ones are sitting tens and hundreds of people, and in the non-secret ones thousands or even tens of thousands are sitting.”
Your colleagues, the Odessa political prisoners Elena Glischinskaya and Vitaly Didenko, were exchanged last summer for the Ukrainian citizens Yury Soloshenko and Gennady Afanasyev condemned in Russia. Do you hope for an exchange?
“I am generally shocked how it is possible to exchange citizens of Ukraine for citizens of Ukraine?! “Barring” in prisons your own citizens, who “didn’t please” the regime, in order to use them as a bargaining chip for their propaganda purposes – this is the abuse of citizens of Ukraine. Undoubtedly, I will be immensely grateful to those who will pull me out from prison, and the earlier the better. Being free it will be easier for me to prove in court my the innocence. As far as I understand, Russia long ago stood up in defense of those who fight for justice and freedom: the example of Edward Snowden is already very valuable. And as a logical continuation – Elena Glischinskaya, Vitaly Didenko and others were liberated, honour and respect for this to Russia.”
About the author: Artyom Buzila — Odessa journalist who stayed in SBU prison from April of 2015 until March, 2016.
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