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Prosecutors investigate case of journalist allegedly targeted by enlistment officers

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 8, 2024 3:30 PM 3 min read
Enlistment officers approach Ukrainian investigative journalism outlet Slidstvo.Info's journalist Yevhenii Shulhat in a Kyiv shopping mall in an attempt to give him a mobilization summons. (Screenshot of Slidstvo.Info's YouTube video published on April 6, 2024.)
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The Prosecutor General's Office announced on April 8 that it had opened a criminal investigation after the journalist of the Ukrainian investigative outlet Slidstvo.Info, Yevhenii Shulhat, had been allegedly targeted by military enlistment officers as retaliation for his investigation into a Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) official.

After Slidstvo.Info reported on the incident on April 6, the SBU told the Kyiv Independent that it was reviewing the published information, adding that the Defense Ministry and the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Force are also involved in the inspection.

The Prosecutor General's Office said that it had initiated a criminal investigation into possible abuse of office and obstruction of a journalist's professional activities by the SBU employees and military enlistment officers.

Last week, Shulhat was approached by two men in uniform who said they represented an enlistment office and attempted to hand him a summons while accusing the journalist of evading military service.

Security camera footage showed that they were accompanied by a man who appeared to be there to lead them to the journalist. Slidstvo.Info said they identified him as Oleksii Bilenko, who they said works in the cybersecurity department of the SBU.

Slidstvo.Info called the incident "revenge" for Shulhat's recent investigation into Illia Vitiuk, the cybersecurity chief of the SBU.

According to the outlet, Vitiuk's wife started making big earnings after her husband was appointed to the job, and bought an apartment in a premium residential complex in Kyiv below the market price.

Recent campaigns against journalists raise concerns about press freedom in Ukraine
Investigative journalists in Ukraine came under two attacks in just the past week, one involving a threatening home visit and another using covert surveillance. The two incidents are the latest in a series of discrediting campaigns against independent Ukrainian media, often supported by anonymous p…

Shulhat recorded his encounter with the enlistment office employees, who approached him last week in a popular shopping center in northern Kyiv at around 9 p.m. The footage of the encounter and associated investigation were published on Slidstvo.Info's YouTube channel.

The video shows two men in uniform who introduced themselves as employees of the Solomianskyi District enlistment office. They appeared to know Shulhat, approaching him and identifying him by name. They accused Shulhat of not properly registering with an enlistment office after he reached the mobilization eligibility age.

In turn, the journalist asked the men whether they were approaching him in connection with his recent investigation into Vitiuk. Both men denied this, claiming they did not know that Shulhat was a journalist.

Shulhat also pointed out that the two men recognized the journalist immediately and knew him by name. They tried to give him a draft summons, which he did not accept, citing the suspicious circumstances. The uniformed people left soon after, saying that they noted Shulhat's "refusal to accept the summons."

This is not the first case of Ukrainian journalists accusing the SBU of pressure against the free press. Another investigative outlet, Bihus.Info, revealed in January that they had been illegally surveilled by an SBU department for months.

Bihus.Info proved the SBU was secretly recording some of their staff members using drugs during a New Year's party and then published the footage to discredit the outlet.

After the scandalous revelation, the Security Service fired the employees implicated in the spying operation and pledged to stand for the freedom of the press.

Mere days before the Bihus.Info scandal, two unidentified men approached the apartment of another prominent journalist, Yurii Nikolov. The men were aggressively banging on his door, demanding the journalist to open the door and talk to them, calling Nikolov a "traitor" and accusing him of evading military service.

Nikolov is known for his earlier investigations revealing corruption in Ukraine's public procurement.

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