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March 17, 2017

Members of the U.S. Congress Call to Drop Criminal Charges Against Crimean Journalist Mykola Semena

Washington, DC – Today, Members of the U.S. Congress called on Prosecutor General Oleg Kamshylov to drop all charges against Crimean journalist Mykola Semena, who was charged after writing an article expressing the view that the Crimea should be returned to Ukraine.  The letter sent late Friday was signed by Reps. Adam Schiff, Brendan Boyle, Gerry Connolly, Marcy Kaptur, William Keating, Sandy Levin, Bill Pascrell, Mark Pocan, John Shimkus, and Louise Slaughter.

The full letter, linked here, is below:

Dear Prosecutor General Kamshylov, 

The trial of Mykola Semena, a prominent Crimean journalist who contributes to Radio Free Europe//Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Ukrainian service is scheduled to begin on March 20, 2017. Mr. Semena is charged with public incitement to undermine Russian territorial integrity via mass media, after he wrote an article expressing the view that the Crimea should be returned to Ukraine. We believe these charges are part of a concerted effort by Russian and Russian-backed authorities to clamp down on independent media.

Mr. Semena has worked and lived as a journalist in Crimea since 1991. He was one of the only independent journalists to remain on the peninsula following Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea, and has continued to courageously provide an independent press to residents of Crimea. He is currently under a court order that bars him from leaving Crimea and forces him to seek permission before traveling outside the region, despite his requests to travel to Kyiv for urgently needed medical care.

As members of the U.S. Congress, we have vowed to promote and protect international human rights norms on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We add our voice to that of the European Union (EU), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to express our deep concern over the Semena case. Mr. Semena is being tried for exercising his rights to free speech; criticizing authorities is not a crime.

We strongly urge you to drop all charges against Mr. Semena, and allow him to leave the Crimean peninsula to seek medical treatment in Ukraine.


Adam Schiff
Member of Congress