Open Dialog Foundation observer kidnapped

A journalist, Serhiy Lefter, disappeared on 16 April 2014 in Slovyansk, Donetsk Oblast.Lefter was in Slovyansk since 14 April as Open Dialog Foundation correspondent, within our observation mission.

Warsaw, 17 April 2014 – Serhiy Lefter was last in contact with the Kyiv office of the foundation on Tuesday, 15 April, in the evening. There has been no contact with him since then, he doesn’t answer his phone and his whereabouts are unknown. The Open Dialog Foundation links the disappearance of Serhiy Lefter with the presence in Slovyansk of the armed terrorist groups from the Russian Federation.

The disappearance of Serhiy Lefter is yet another sign of aggression against journalistic environment. The Open Dialog Foundation is appealing to the members of the UN and the OSCE to recognize that the responsibility for the kidnapping of the Ukrainian journalist lies with the Russian Federation, which has been carrying out a military invasion in Ukraine.

Russia has been successfully blocking any possibility to collect and publish independent information on the situation in Eastern Ukraine. The persecution of independent journalists is a clear proof of such activity. At the same time, the Russian Federation continues to spread the heavy wave of aggressive propaganda, based on false information,aimed at deepening the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

The Open Dialog Foundation is highly concerned that kidnapping and detention of journalists in Eastern Ukraine may become a widespread practice, standing in the violation of basic human rights. We are strongly convinced that distributing objective and independent information on Russian actions in Eastern Ukraine among the international community may stop the Russian aggression.

Serhiy Lefter is 24 years old and comes from Vinnytsia. He has been collaborating with the Open Dialog Foundation for a month now. He participated in a two-week observation mission to Crimea. In the recent days, he has been covering the developments of the situation in Eastern Ukraine: he was to Kramatorsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and, from 14 April, he has been in Slovyansk.

Before starting his collaboration with the Open Dialog Foundation, Serhiy used to work for the First National Ukrainian TV channel (Pierwyj Nacjonalnyj). He resigned, while Yanukovych was still in power, after having faced pressures from his superiors and because of censorship imposed on his reportage.

Serhiy Lefter wrote numerous articles documenting the situation in Ukraine for the Maidan24 online portal. Below are the links to the articles of his authorship.

UA: Проросійсько налаштовані харків’яни блокують базу дислокації «Беркуту»
UA: Ситуація у центрі Харкова після розблокування Обласної Державній Адміністрації від сепаратистів
UA: У Харкові почався суд над сепаратистами
EN: Situation in Sloviansk
EN: Unrest and actions of separatists in Donetsk
EN: Pro-Russian Kharkiv residents block Berkut base
EN: Kharkiv: the situation after freeing the Oblast State Administration building from separatists
EN: Separatists’ trials begin in Kharkiv

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If someone is aware of, or can help to find out the whereabouts of Serhiy – we ask you to contact the Open Dialog Foundation at the following phone number: +38 0634 78 44 10. 
In order to receive more detailed information, please contact: Tomasz Czuwara, Open Dialog Foundation, +48 534 670 800, tomasz.czuwara@odfoundation.eu.