Natalya Kokorina, an editor of the Simferopol-based independent journalist initiative Center for Investigative Journalism, was detained by officers of the Crimean headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB detained her at her parents’ house on March 13 during a search, and refused to allow Kokorina's lawyer to be present.
The Crimean security services also searched the Simferopol home of the parents of another independent journalist, Anna Andrievska. Andrievska herself was previously an editor at the Center for Investigative Journalism and still writes for the center, but from Kyiv, where she moved from Crimea following Russia’s annexation.
Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Klimkin, OSCE's Media Representative Dunja Mijatovic, and Committee to Protect Journalists all called for the immediate release of the independent journalist.
Пані Кокоріна має бути звільнена. Росія, як держава-окупант, має зупинитися у придушенні свободи слова в Криму. #CrimeaIsUkraine У мене все.
— Pavlo Klimkin (@PavloKlimkin) March 13, 2015
Miss Kokorina should be released. Russia, as an invading state, must stop cracking down on free speech in Crimea. #CrimeaIsUkraine That's all I have to say.
Condemning repressive actions against journalists in #Crimea, #Ukraine; urges @investigator_ua journalist's release http://t.co/cFw925ug1K
— Dunja Mijatovic (@OSCE_RFoM) March 13, 2015
Kokorina was later released after six hours of questioning, and said she was questioned as a witness in a criminal investigation launched over Article 280.1 of the Russian criminal code (public calls to action aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation). Kokorina's lawyer, Dzhemil Temishev, said the investigation was founded on several of the Center's online publications.
Anna Andrievska also told reporters law enforcement showed her father a Simferopol court warrant that said she was under criminal investigation for “materials containing calls to overthrow power in Crimea.” Andrievska said the criminal proceedings were likely linked to one specific article she wrote and published on the Center's website on December 11, 2014. The article, “Volunteers of the Crimea [Krym] Battalion,” tells the stories of volunteers supporting the Krym (Crimea) volunteer battalion and other Crimean units fighting as part of the Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.
The amendment to the code criminalizing “public calls to separatism” was introduced shortly after Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and suggests those found guilty of the crime can get up to 5 years in jail.
The Center for Investigative Journalism was initially based in Simferopol, the regional capital of annexed Crimea, but was forced to relocate to Kiev after its staff was subjected to attacks and harassment by the authorities. The center trains journalists and publishes investigative reports on its website.