KIEV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that as a gesture of good will he would free Russian-Ukrainian journalist Kirill Vyshinskiy in exchange for the simultaneous release by Russia of imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.
“If we are talking about good will and would like this to take place soon, we are ready to exchange Vyshinskiy... we are ready to exchange him for Sentsov, but he is not a bargaining chip,” the president told reporters.
He added that Ukraine’s ultimate goal is for all Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia to be sent home.
“And if this (the exchange of Vyshinskiy for Sentsov) is the first step, we’re ready for that,” Zelenskiy said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this Thursday that the release of Vyshinskiy, director of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti in Ukraine and arrested on grounds of treason in 2018, would be “a good first step” for the renewal of the dialogue between Moscow and Kiev.
Precisely this Friday, Kiev reviewed the case against the journalist, who has double Russian-Ukrainian citizenship, the latter having been used by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to support the accusation of treason.
The Podolie district court in the Ukrainian capital extended the measure of preventive prison against Vyshinskiy until next Sept. 19.
“This is shameful,” the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said about the decision.
For her part, Russian Public Defender Tatyana Moskalkova noted that the ruling, which she disparaged as “political, not judicial,” was “to be expected.”
Sentsov, for his part, was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years behind bars by the Russian justice system, which found him guilty of two terrorist attacks and of organizing a third on the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
In 2018, the Ukrainian film director was honored by the European Parliament with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The United States, the European Union and human rights organizations like Amnesty International have often asked that Sentsov be freed, considering him a political prisoner.