Prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet has resigned from his post at public television channel OTR in protest against the Russian government’s policies on Ukraine. Sheremet announced his resignation on his Facebook page, where he accused the Kremlin of “hounding journalists who talk about events in Ukraine and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict in a way that differs from the Kremlin’s unfettered propaganda”.
In his statement, Sheremet, a native of Belarus, slammed both the Kremlin and pro-Russian militants for threatening independent journalists such as those at radio station Echo of Moscow and for labelling them a “fifth column”.
He wrote: “I consider the annexation of Crimea and the support of separatists in the east of Ukraine to be bloody adventurism and a fatal mistake in Russian policy that will lead the country to disaster if not stopped right now.”
He further claimed that Alexander Zinchenko, a leader in the anti-Maidan protests wrote to Anatoly Lysenko, the general director of OTR, and Vsevolod Bogdanov, the chairman of Russia’s Union of Journalists, urging them to investigate “that Russophobe Sheremet, who conducts detestable interviews with Ukrainian executioners”. Sheremet added that the Kremlin repeatedly complained to OTR management about the critical tone of his coverage.
Lysenko told Itar-Tass that Sheremet’s contract was due to expire on 3 August but that the channel would still hope to work with him in the future.
Sheremet’s move is one in a long line of resignations by Russian journalists protesting the government’s tightening grip on independent media in Russia following the crisis in Ukraine including the annexation of Crimea.
In March this year, over 60 journalists from independent news website Lenta.ru resigned after their editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, was unexpectedly fired and replaced by Kremlin appointee Alexei Goreslavsky.
Known for his outspoken journalism, Sheremet has had a number of brushes with the law. In 1997 he was imprisoned in Belarus after he and a colleague revealed the ineffectiveness of the country’s anti-smuggling campaign by filming themselves illegally crossing the border from Lithuania. In 1999 he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award from US organisation the Committee to Protect Journalists.