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Russians urge RIA Melitopol administrators to surrender as prisoners

19.04.2024, 18:19

The Russian occupiers on Telegram are urging the administrators of the Ukrainian media outlet RIA Melitopol to surrender, reports the regional representative of the IMI in the Zaporizhzhia oblast.

The post, shared by the propaganda channel "New Melitopol. Zaporizhzhia Region", among others, offers the journalists to "go out into the Victory Square" in "liberated Melitopol" and surrender.

The post with the call features a World War 2 era photo of German Nazi occupiers surrendering as prisoners, and contains hate speech towards Ukrainians. It calls on the administrators to "choose the right side and stand up for the truth."

The Telegram channel used by the occupiers to threaten Ukrainian media workers; screenshot by the IMI

"If you are in the liberated Melitopol, you have a chance. Go out to Victory Square or call the city commandant's office and say that you are an administrator of the RIA Melitopol channel. After all steps, you will be assigned an appointment. You will be asked to switch to a Russian media outlet, where you will receive a salary. Choose the right path," the post reads.

The RIA Pviden (RIA Melitopol) chief editor Svitlana Zalizetska considers the propaganda resources working in the temporarily occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia oblast making such posts about the media outlet to be part of an information campaign targeting the entire team.

Zalizetska and her team have been receiving numerous threats since their refusal to work with the occupiers in March 2022. The screenshots spread by the occupiers on social media contain death threats, including calls for murder, which target her, her parents, and children.

In August 2023, the Russians hacked the Telegram channel of the Ukrainian media outlet RIA Melitopol, which kept working even after the temporary occupation of Melitopol (Zaporizhia oblast). The channel's administrator Heorhiy Levchenko was detained. On October 23, 2023, the Russian media released a news story about the detention of the RIA-Melitopol and "Melitopol is Ukraine" Telegram channel administrators, which happened two months prior. The administrators were charged with terrorism. RIA Melitopol journalist Anastasia Hlukhovska, who continued to work in the temporarily occupied city, was recognized as one of the other detainees in the video. All of them are charged under several articles of the Russian criminal code: public calls for terrorist attacks, treason, espionage. They face 12 to 20 years in prison.

In early May 2023, Melitopol journalist Iryna Levchenko and her husband Oleksandr were kidnapped in the temporarily occupied city (Zaporizhzhia oblast). Both have been in retirement for years. The occupiers detained the couple on the street, first keeping them together and then separating them. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

According to the IMI, as of April 10, at least 27 Ukrainian media workers are held prisoner by Russia.

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