On July 5th, Kiev announced that it is willing to expand the list of prisoners that Ukraine is ready to exchange for Ukrainians being held in Russia. The new list includes the head of the arrested journalist and head of RIA Novosti Ukraina, Kirill Vyshinsky, as well as 12 Russian citizens. Some of them have Russian citizenship or dual citizenship (like Vyshinsky). Among those intended for exchange is the coordinator of the Volunteers of Victory movement, Elena Yurevich (Odnovol), arrested for organizing a Victory Day celebration outlawed by Ukrainian authorities.
In turn, the Ukrainians plan to receive in exchange a group of Ukrainians sentenced for terrorism, the most famous among whom is Oleg Sentsov. Sentsov was arrested by the FSB literally just before he planned to commit a terrorist attack in Crimea. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian press and Russian liberal circles continue to refer to him as a “director”, and the famous film director Sokurov has joined support campaigns for Sentsov.
As an historian of revolutionary movements in Russia, I can say that alliances between terrorists and the liberal intelligentsia are traditional in our country. In the early 20th century, the leaders of the liberal public and parties (such as the Constitutional Democratic Party, etc.) justified terrorist attacks be militant revolutionary groups. Sokurov is merely continuing the tradition of de-humanizing political opponents into targets unworthy of pity or compassion by suggesting that terrorism is “understandable.”
Another important aspect of the problem is that Ukraine is taking more and more hostages from among journalists and ordinary citizens for exchanges. This tactic has been notorious throughout the war in Donbass. As officers of the DPR and LPR militias have told me, the Ukrainians have a practice of arresting civilians in Ukrainian-controlled Donbass and “sewing them up” a terrorism case after which they try to exchange these innocent people for captured Ukrainian soldiers. It might be that this was applied to Kirill Vyshinsky, who headed the Ukrainian office of RIA Novosti and was a Ukrainian citizen.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Ukrainian journalists continue to work freely in Russia without being subject to threats or sudden imprisonment. When Nadezhda Savchenko was tried, a group of Ukrainian journalists publicly rejoiced over the murder of Russian journalists for which Savchenko was prosecuted. The moral “justification” of terrorism is therefore a practice of the Ukrainian journalist community, which is one of many reasons why I refuse to give interviews to any Ukrainian media.
The exchange will probably go through. Sentsov, who was arrested for preparing to murder innocent civilians in Crimea, will likely receive the title of “Hero of Ukraine” from President Poroshenko himself (like Savchenko before him, who is now accused of plotting to assassinate Poroshenko and Verkhovna Rada deputies). Moreover, with successfully tested hostage-taking methods, Ukraine will undoubtedly use these dirty methods in the future.
This means that Russian journalists in Ukraine will live in constant danger of being arrested for exchange operations. I do not understand the policy of those Russian information agencies who continue to work in Ukraine despite the country’s terroristic methods.
Kirill Vyshinsky will be freed, but many volunteers from Russia, including militiamen of the Donbass republics, will remain in Ukrainian captivity. Therefore, this prisoner exchange is in Ukraine’s interests, not Russia’s.