Journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko was detained in Crimea in March 2021. (file photo)
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The Moscow-controlled Supreme Court of Russian-annexed Crimea has shortened the prison term of RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko by one year to five years.
Yesypenko's wife, Kateryna Yesypenko, told RFE/RL on August 18 that the decision to fine her husband 110,000 rubles ($1,810) remains in effect. "We will continue to appeal the verdict. Because of the decision by the court of appeals, we now have a very good chance. In half-a-year, we can request an early release. If the sentence remained six years in prison, the time for early release would be in one year," Kateryna Yesypenko said, adding that her husband was present at the hearing and looked well. Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities project, was sentenced in Crimea in February after a closed-door trial. He was detained in Crimea in March 2021 for allegedly collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence. Before the arrest, he had worked in Crimea for five years reporting on social and environmental issues on the peninsula. Yesypenko testified during a court hearing that the Russian authorities "want to discredit the work of freelance journalists who really want to show the things that really happen in Crimea." RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has called the judgment a “travesty” of justice. Press freedom advocates, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, along with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the U.S. State Department, are among those who have called for Yesypenko’s immediate release in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing. In May, Yesypenko was awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in the United States, which is given to honor writers who are political prisoners. Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in early 2014 and weeks later threw its support behind pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east. On February 24, Moscow launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In recent weeks it has intensified its bombardment of areas in the east to tighten and expand its grip on areas where the separatists have a stronghold.