Ukrainian political analyst’s call to ‘exterminate Russian reporters’ gets criminal probe

Flowers in memory of the VGRTK journalists killed in Ukraine -- correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and video engineer Anton Voloshin -- by the VGRTK building in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)
Russian law enforcers have launched a criminal probe into the actions of a Ukrainian political scientist who reportedly called on the pro-Kiev military to “thoroughly exterminate” Russian journalists.

The suspect, Yury Romanenko, said this in early April at a public conference at Harvard University in the USA. Later, Romanenko posted the text of his statement on his Facebook page and it has been repeatedly quoted by mass media.

In his own words, the director of the Stratagema political analysis center and managing editor of the Khvilya (Wave) website wanted to “bring the problem of mass media to the new level.”

The military forces of Ukraine must selectively and thoroughly exterminate Russian journalists who cover the situation in Donbass. They must issue an order to army snipers that people with ‘Press’ written on their helmets are priority targets,” he said.

READ MORE: In the line of fire: Journalists killed and abducted in Eastern Ukraine

The case is now being handled by the Investigative Committee - Russia’s newest law enforcement agency, created to fight extremely dangerous and high-profile crime.

In the investigators’ opinion the material contains destructive calls that could incline Ukrainian officials and military servicemen towards committing mass murders of Russian citizens who work as journalists. In addition, Romanenko’s words incite hatred and hostility towards journalists of the Russian Federation as a social group,” committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the press on Tuesday.

Investigators initiated a case into inciting hatred, punishable by up to two years in prison and complicity with murder, which could result in a prison term for life.

Russian law allows for the prosecution of foreign citizens who commit crimes outside the Russian Federation if these crimes are targeting its citizens or the interests of the state, Markin reminded in his media address.

READ MORE: Missing Russian journalist Andrey Stenin confirmed dead in Ukraine

In mid-March this year the Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into the statement by retired US Army general Robert H. Scales who, speaking on US TV network Fox News, suggested that the Ukrainian crisis could be settled by “killing Russians.”

In June 2014, two Russian journalists – Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin - were killed by shelling from pro-Kiev forces as they filmed refugees leaving the area attacked by the Ukrainian military. In the same month, 68-year-old Russian TV cameraman Anatoly Klyan was fatally wounded by Kiev troops in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

In early September 2014, Russian news agency RIA Novosti confirmed the death of war photographer Andrey Stenin. He died after his car was hit by machine gun fire and caught fire. He had been traveling in a convoy of escaping civilians.