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Iran Press TV

Moscow court gives Ukrainian journalist 12 years for espionage

Iran Press TV

Mon Jun 4, 2018 04:13PM

A court in Russia has sentenced a Ukrainian journalist to 12 years in prison after convicting him of spying for his native country, a move that could further sour ties between Moscow and Kiev.

The Moscow City Court found Roman Sushchenko guilty of espionage at a hearing on Monday.

The 49-year-old journalist was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2016 after he flew into Moscow from Paris, where he had been working as a correspondent for Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform for more than a decade.

The FSB accused Sushchenko of collecting classified information about Russia's military, charges that he has strongly dismissed.

Sushchenko, who had pleaded innocent at the start of his trial in March, told AFP on Monday that he would appeal the "unjust" verdict.

Kiev last week condemned the trial, with Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa and rights activists calling the case "politically-motivated."

The case comes amid a recent uptick in violence in the conflict between Kiev troops and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine.

The armed conflict erupted in Ukraine following the overthrow of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and intensified after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with the Russian Federation in a referendum in March 2014.

The West brands the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia. The US and its allies in Europe also accuse the Kremlin of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by Moscow.

The pro-Russians have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east – collectively known as the Donbass – into self-proclaimed republics. The crisis has left over 10,000 people dead and more than a million others displaced, according to the United Nations.

In September 2014, the government in Kiev and the pro-Russia forces signed a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital Minsk in a bid to halt the fighting in Ukraine's eastern regions.

The warring sides also inked another truce deal, dubbed Minsk II, in February 2015 under the supervision of Russia, Germany, and France.

Since then, however, sporadic fighting has occurred, with the parties blaming each other for initiating the violations.

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