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9 Sep, 2019 20:37

'I couldn't protect myself with law': Freed Russian journalist Vyshinsky recalls Ukraine jail time

'I couldn't protect myself with law': Freed Russian journalist Vyshinsky recalls Ukraine jail time

The case was made up against him in Ukraine to help then-President Petro Poroshenko win re-election, but the plan backfired and merely tainted Kiev’s international reputation, freed Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky has told RT.

The head of the RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency was detained at his home in Kiev in May 2018 and charged with high treason over allegedly being involved in a “hybrid information war” against Ukraine, which carries a term of up to 15 years behind bars.

Vyshinsky spent 470 days in pre-trial detention, saying that “the hardest thing was the living conditions because it’s a shock when someone first enters prison. I had in my hands a small bag for toiletries, a toothbrush and tooth paste.”

“The second hardest thing to get over was the shock of everything that was happening with me because I understood that it had nothing to do with the law. I understood that it was absolutely a political story invented by Poroshenko and his people. Also, I realized that, within the law, I didn't have a chance to protect myself.”

Also on rt.com Jailed Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky freed in seismic detainee exchange with Kiev

Vyshinsky arrived in the Russian capital at the weekend as part of an exchange of detainees between Kiev and Moscow. With all the secrecy surrounding the swap and the reception he’s been getting at home, his first three days of freedom had become “an emotional rollercoaster,” he said.

“I’m meeting my family and nearest ones as well as people who put a lot of effort into making my release possible. I never experienced such an emotional load in prison. But I understand that it’s a lot more pleasant for me now that I am free.”

'I couldn't protect myself with law': Freed Russian journalist Vyshinsky recalls Ukraine jail time

‘I didn't lose faith’

The time behind bars became a tough test that surely left a mark on him, the journalist said. “Anyone who leaves prison leaves it as a different person. Therefore, of course, I am different. But I didn’t lose my faith. I’m disappointed in certain people and those who made it all up. But, to lose faith is the same as to let prison destroy you completely.”

One of the things that helped him endure his detention, which had been prolonged on numerous occasions, was “the understanding that there are people and a big country out there, which is doing everything for me to go free,” the journalist recalled.

Also on rt.com ‘I hope freedom of speech will be real value, not empty words’ – Vyshinsky after 1yr in Ukraine jail

‘Arrest was sign of Poroshenko’s helplessness’

Since his arrest, Vyshinsky has maintained that the case against him was politically motivated. He vigorously denied claims by Ukrainian prosecutors who insisted that he was supporting, through his journalistic work, the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have been a target of Kiev’s bloody military operation since 2014.

“I thought my profession would protect me. I work in accordance to strict standards. If I followed all these journalistic standards, there was nothing they could arrest me for. But it turned out there was, because [then Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko created a big political story for his people.”

His detention was “a sign of helplessness” on the part of Poroshenko, who “wanted a second term so much,” Vyshinsky pointed out. However, it was still not enough for him to win re-election, but by then “the international image of Ukraine was tainted.”

“It’s stupid to deny that it’s a political process and it ended with my release. And it ended like this because there was a change of administration [in Ukraine]. I knew that as long as Poroshenko was in power I would remain in prison.”

‘Hopefully, Zelensky has the courage to keep mending ties with Russia’

The journalist, who holds both Russian and Ukrainian passports, said that he even felt “sorry” for Volodymyr Zelensky, who is now in charge in Kiev, as the man faces a tough job of correcting Poroshenko’s mistakes.

Also on rt.com Year of selective blindness: Russian journalist still in Ukrainian jail under bogus treason charges

When asked if his release and the whole prisoner swap were a sign of a positive shift in relations between Moscow and Kiev, Vyshinsky frankly responded: “I don’t know.”

“There are a lot of steps that would require political will and courage from the current administration and Zelensky personally. I hope he has this courage to continue moving towards further normalization of ties between the two peoples, which, I’m certain, stem from the same root.” 

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