Lawyer Mark Feygin has finally managed to talk with his client, our colleague, Paris-based correspondent Roman Sushchenko, who was detained in Moscow where he arrived for personal purposes.
Since it is the first such a big conversation, the range of topics is wide, from household conditions to details of the case and circumstances of the arrest.
FRANCE, THE COUNTRY THAT GAVE ACCREDITATION TO ROMAN, SHOULD SAY ITS WORD
-Today we have managed to talk with Roman Sushchenko in Lefortovo. He is in a two-bed prison cell. His neighbor, Munir Baboyev, is convicted in the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I don’t know who he is and where he is from. Although in general, there are a lot of famous people in Lefortovo. There is a fridge, TV and radio in his prison cell. They are small, but in good condition, they were left from the previous inmates. Some take these things with them, many just leave because they are rather well provided for. Or simply it’s by tradition. On Sunday, Sushchenko, the journalist accredited in Paris, saw a TV program by Dmitry Kiselyov – pure Place Pigalle!
- What about parcels for him?
- Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsymbaliuk brought a giant-sized bag. Later, I saw how Mark Galperin was registering a parcel too. So at the moment Roman has all necessary things, and there is no need to send him anything. I handed him a digest of publications about him, prepared by Ukrinform. I gave him about 60 pages of articles, various publications, texts from blog accounts. Roman has read everything. He is surprised that so many people remember and write about him. He is impressed with such a scale of moral support.
- And, of course, have you discussed the current case?
- Yes, we’ve discussed. My conclusion - this was a preliminary planned special operation, the purpose of which was he. But at the same time, I’m not sure that the FSB, the Kremlin, are interested in Roman Sushchenko as an object. Many things in this case look like a coincidence, like it was exactly he who was arrested. Because of a state secret in this case, I can’t tell all the things. But in general, in a nutshell, there is no particular factual material in the available materials. There isn't a trace of the Bond films in his case at all!
- Was Roman arrested immediately after his arrival?
- No-no, he was arrested a little bit later. He had time to come home and leave his stuff. He was detained after 5 p.m.
- It is clear that it’s too early to speak about prospects of the case. But nevertheless what are the chances for his release?
- It’s not an easy task, but it’s quite real. Pessimism is impropriate here. There are all reasons to believe that all will end well. Also, it’s clear that due to current relations between Russia and Ukraine, no one can be released easily. Therefore, the most realistic outcome is the exchange. A political component will be the decisive part – certain negotiations. However, a procedural part is also very important. It is necessary to prepare a ground, the platform for negotiations of politicians, diplomats.
- Perhaps, there are any specific moments in this case?
- Oh, sure there are. Roman Sushchenko is an international journalist. He is officially accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France. And it should be used as much as possible by the Ukrainian side. As I understand, corresponding requests could be sent by Ukrinform, his colleagues-journalists, as well as by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ukrainian politicians.
- In this regard, we can recall that currently there are lively discussions whether Putin's visit to Hollande takes place on October 19.
- If this meeting really takes place, then I have strong hopes that the arrest of Roman Sushchenko will be discussed during it. And journalists at press briefings have to ask about this. Another address of Mr. Hollande in PACE is expected. It is also a good occasion for questions about Roman Sushchenko. I understand that now priority issues on the agenda are questions for Russia regarding Syria, Aleppo. But, on the other hand, because of the vulnerability of Kremlin's position on this – the issue of Roman Sushchenko will have a good background.
Is it dangerous for an Ukrinform staff employee to stay in Russia? It’s rather dangerous
- Frequently asked question: “Why did Sushchenko go to Moscow?”
- In the existing context, this question to some extent has no sense. Relatives and friends of Roman live in this city. In the last two odd years since the start of war, the escalation of Russian-Ukrainian relations, Sushchenko came to Moscow several times. There is nothing about this if the person feels no guilt, feels no threat.
- What was the reason for his latest arrival?
- Some sort of family business in the family of his brother. It seems that it was a "hook" in the preliminary prepared special operation.
- If you remember, after the start of war, Ukrinform correspondent Vitaliy Sych was forced to urgently leave Moscow after Head of Moscow’s Red Cross Igor Trunov had filed a claim against him for “inciting ethnic strife” immediately to three instances: Savelovsky District Court, the Federal Security Service and The Hague ". " Now there is the arrest of Roman Sushchenko on "espionage charges”. In your opinion how dangerous is it for journalist of national news agency Ukrinform to stay in Russia under such conditions?
- I don’t rule out that it’s really so – it’s dangerous. You should realize that it’s both easy and hard to analyze actions of the current Russian leadership. In principle, everything is clear and predictable. However, certain manifestations of this predictability are known in advance ... The fact that Sushchenko’s employer is the national agency is the fact if not decisive, but very important. Everything connected with the current state power in Ukraine is a priori hostile for the Kremlin... You know, I’m often reproached for making hysteria out of nothing, for intimidating everyone. So I’d like to stress authoritarian regime exists in Russia, but not totalitarian one. Therefore, mass repressions are not expected. And there are not needed at all. As intimidations of some persons are enough. The same thing is with Ukrainians in Russia. It’s obvious that all half a million Ukrainians currently living in Russia will not be arrested and isolated… But if we go back to your question - is there certain risk for a journalist, an employee of Ukrinform, during the stay in Russia? Then it’s rather yes than no ... But still everything is unpredictable.
CURRENT PREPACKAGED NEWS STORIES FOR RUSSIAN MASS MEDIA: FSB ISSUED ITS VERDICT, AND YOU KEEP SCILENCE
- There is a strange situation in Russian media, especially on TV. The story with our colleague Sushchenko had such a bright beginning. And then suddenly everybody stopped talking about it. Why is it so?
- It's obvious. Because at the moment such sort of prepackaged news stories have come. And the Russian media operate on the order, at the direct command from the top. It’s a common practice. The second question is why such a command to keep quiet was given. Perhaps, because Sushchenko is a real journalist, even an international one. Maybe, they felt a risk of some solidarity. And so they decided to stay quiet for some time. The FSB issued its verdict: "He is a spy, Colonel!”. So just live with this for a while… Now remember fuss and bustle in Russian media around the detention of LifeNews journalists in the ATO zone. Oh, how terrible, journalist are prevented from doing their job! Kadyrov immediately became engaged in this ... And where is the reaction of Russian journalists to the arrest of international correspondent accredited in Paris? Where? Not a word. There should be just no illusions in relation to Russian journalists. Look at old publications by hackers, Gabrelyanov correspondence, the owner of LifeNews. Journalists are treated like dogs that follow any order and come to a point at the first shout. There is a special curator for media affairs at the Russian Presidential Administration. It is well known what meetings with media representatives are prepared by Peskov, Gromov. Journalism in Russia is only an element, a part of the propaganda machine. Which, I must admi.t in general works quite effectively.
- What are your next steps in this case?
- First of all, I’d like to remind that the case was opened about a week ago. And there should be no agitation to perform the result today... We have just filed an appeal against the arrest. Also, we have submitted a paper about insufficient grounds to institute criminal proceedings against Sushchenko. We need to receive many of the documents from Ukraine. And as we remember from the Savchenko case, the Russian side may create obstacles here. So first of all, we will cooperate with the Ukrainian Consulate in Moscow. If this way of obtaining documents officially is blocked for us, then we will file complaints. We will also demand from the investigative bodies to send a request to Ukrainian structures for obtaining relevant documents... The investigation includes conducting face-to-face interrogations, conducting linguistic, phonoscopic examinations. We want to add our clarification questions. Also, we are considering filing a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in connection with insufficient grounds for the arrest. In general, there is enough current, routine work to do.