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1 Aug, 2014 20:44

RT’s video agency producer kicked out of Ukraine

A producer for RT’s RUPTLY video agency has been ordered to leave Ukraine after local authorizes learned that she holds both American and Russian citizenships. The journalist says she has been forced out of the country because of her “Russian passport”.

Alina Eprimian, a producer for RT’s Ruptly video agency, has been covering an assembly of local activists in the town of Rakoshyno, some 30 km from the western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod, in the province of Transcarpathia. People gathered to discuss to whether or not block the highway leading from Rakoshyno to Kiev.

Traffic on the major regional road has been halted for the past few days as local activists have been protesting against the mobilization of the Ukrainian army. They blocked the highway with benches, flowerbeds and vehicles, not letting any transport, except ambulances and emergency services, pass through.

They deleted all my footage. Journalists here r so proud of themselves now All they did was show the world what type of country they live in

— alina eprimian (@alina_eprimian) August 1, 2014

RUPTLY’s producer has been at the scene with her equipment – camera and tripod which had labels of RT Ruptly.

According to RT’s official statement, one of the Ukrainian journalists, who was also working at the scene, noticed labels of RT RUPTLY and started questioning her and filming with his video camera. This attracted attention of other reporters, who called the police. Security forces arrived along with Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) representatives.

Alina Eprimian was then interrogated and told law enforcements that she was from Abu Dhabi, but born in Tbilisi. She also told them she was currently working for Berlin-based RUPTLY. Eprimian admitted having both Russian and American citizenship after it was revealed that she had previously entered Ukraine using a Russian passport. She recently arrived in the crisis-torn country using her American passport, which was not a violation.

So im not a spy. I entered on a US passport and they are telling me to leave on the basis that I have a Russian passport. #Ukraine

— alina eprimian (@alina_eprimian) August 1, 2014

The official reason for Alina’s deportation is that she did not have any media accreditation.

And I am being deported out of #Ukraine

— alina eprimian (@alina_eprimian) August 1, 2014

However, in the past year Alina has been covering events in Ukraine, including those involving President Petro Poroshenko, without such papers as her American passport was just “enough”, RT said in the statement.

Alina has been given until August 4 to leave the country. As she has told RT shortly after the incident, she hoped to catch a plane on Saturday morning and come home.

Eprimian explained she was covering a small protest in Western Ukraine, when another journalist noticed a little RUPTLY sticker on her camera and started shouting “you are Russia Today!” The crowd of around seven journalists surrounded her and began asking questions.

“I gave them all the details that I could give them. I gave them my press card. I had nothing to hide. Obviously they are my colleagues, I wanted to give them all the information they needed,” Eprimian told RT.

I didn't know this was journalism. Giving a colleague away to the SBU. What goes around comes around #Ukrainepic.twitter.com/QhcKSde7BJ

— alina eprimian (@alina_eprimian) August 1, 2014

Then, some 15 minutes later, “three policemen came and three officials from the national security service of Ukraine.” Eprimian claims that after examining her documents, “they did not believe that [a copy of] my American passport was real.” The Ukrainian officials followed Eprimian to the hotel to examine the original document.

“I did not want to be questioned like that. I did not understand the reason for my questioning,” Eprimian says pointing out that overall the Ukrainian authorities acted “pretty civil.”

“At one point they did tell me that if I was not going to sit down, they were going to handcuff me to the chair,” when she tried to resist questioning, she added.

“I did not know what grounds they had in order to even want to question me, or have the right to question me. So when I asked, are you detaining me officially, they said – yes! So I asked on what grounds? They said that civilians and protesters along with journalists complained about my conduct in the protest. I was there for 10 minutes maximum. So, apparently, I provoked the protesters so the journalists complained to the officials.”

Speaking to RT she also said that all the video footage she took was deleted.

“First of all they put it on their computer, so someone out of the officials has it right now,” she said. “They have all footage of myself being questioned, and also of the protest.”

The little bit of footage I have left. Just a small gathering in a small town. Who would've thought?! #Ukrainepic.twitter.com/WAL19ubWTG

— alina eprimian (@alina_eprimian) August 1, 2014

Alina Eprimian is not the first RT-connected journalist to be deported from Ukraine. Last week RT contributor British journalist Graham Phillips was also deported from the country and banned from coming back for three years.

“The reason they gave [me] that was simply that I work for RT, that was all it said in the form. They wouldn’t let me take it or copy it. Just said that ‘you work for RT, it’s the enemy.’ I wasn’t given the chance to defend myself. I was just taken to the border,” Phillips said.

Remember going to #Mariupol with journo @alina_eprimian on May 9th, her incredible work there. She should have got an award not deportation!

— GrahamWPhillips (@GrahamWP_UK) August 1, 2014