Russian journalists have told international news outlets that they were attacked while investigating the secret burials of Russian paratroopers killed in the conflict in Ukraine.
Vladimir Romensky, of the independent Russian television station Dozhd, and Ilya Vasyunin, of Russian news website Russkaya Planeta, said they were hassled by locals in a village near Pskov in eastern Ukraine Aug. 26 when they went to investigate reports of the gravesites. They were first threatened to go back to Moscow or they would “never be found,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Their car then was pelted with stones and their tires slashed.
Other journalists investigating in the village have also told stories of attack. Nina Petlyanova, of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said that she and another reporter were forced into a van and taken to a forest, where their camera memory cards were erased and their lives were threatened, according to the BBC.
Russia has consistently denied sending troops or arms to aid pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government troops in eastern Ukraine. On Aug. 28, NATO released satellite imagery it said showed Russian troops taking part in military operations in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine's defense minister warned Sept. 1 of a "great war" and said that Russia was seeking to consolidate territories held by separatists and advance into other parts of Ukraine, news outlets including the New York Daily News reported.
The attacks Russian journalists come on the heels of multiple reports of aggression against Russian journalists in Ukraine,and deteriorating press freedom conditions, according to the Committee to Project Journalists. On Aug. 5 a photojournalist working for Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian state news agency, went missing while he was covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to Ria Novosti, a Russian news outlet, and has not been heard from since. On Aug. 24, two reporters working for the Crimean Telegraph were detained by Right Sector militants, an ultra-nationalist Ukrainian political wing, according to Ria Novosti. They have not yet been released