On 6 June, Donetsk-born Ukrainian politician Yehor Firsov has reported on Facebook that Stanislav Vasin (Asieiev), a Ukrainian journalist and writer, has gone missing in occupied Donetsk:
Stanislav Asieiev was born and lived in Donetsk. According to Mr.Firsov, Stanislav dwelled in the uncontrolled territory since the beginning of the war because he felt it his duty to remain in the center of action and write about things happening there. “Militants probably have captured him,” Mr.Firsov believes.
On June 10, Tetiana Yakubovych, Vasin’s colleague on RFE/RL’s Donbas.Realii, revealed Vasin’s real name and said that Stanislav Asieiev described life around him, the life he could see with his own eyes prohibited to see for the rest of the country.
Yakubovych stated that Stanislav Asieiev worked exclusively as a journalist, and was not involved in spying – an accusation she fears will be used against him by the occupation organs. Asieiev fully understood the danger he faced on the occupied territory, she wrote: “The Donbas.Realii section on Radio Liberty still features his ‘safety instructions’ post. We never had the nerve to suggest him any safety measures, as we understood that he knows everything a hundred times better than us. Working there was his decision and risk, but Stanislav had a smart approach. What happened proves that nobody is completely safe, but nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that his recommendations were ineffective.”
Browsing the internet anonymously through a TOR browser, a sock account without personal data on social media, wiping all traces of pro-Ukrainian activity off our phone and computer before going for groceries, use a special program to delete files so the special services won’t be able to restore them are some of the safety recommendations Asieiev made. “Trust nobody, but don’t get paranoid” is another one.
Asieiev’s undercover reports, written under a pseudonym, were one of the few unbiased information sources on life in the occupied territories. Starting from the summer of 2015, the “DNR’s information ministry” started denying accreditation to journalists who wrote less-than-rosy reports about the de-facto Russian occupation zone. A hack of Tatyana Egorova, an employee of the self-proclaimed “ministry,” revealed how journalists seeking accreditation were divided into green, yellow, and red categories based on the tonality of what they wrote, with any reference to Russian involvement in Donbas being a reason for denial of accreditation. Currently, with a few rare exceptions, the presence of journalists in “DNR”-controlled Donbas has been reduced to representatives of Russian propaganda outlets.
With Asieiev’s probable arrest, one of the last insider voices of Donbas has been silenced.
The last Facebook post on Vasin’s page is dated June 6, it reads, “Delayed but [here is] the promised material on Yasynuvata,” the link to Stanislav’s article “Between hell and heaven: occupied Yasynuvata and Donetsk” on the Ukrainian site of Radio Liberty:
But Mr. Firsov said, “Meanwhile, his account on Facebook is active, messages are being sent and posts published under it. Probably, it’s not Stas who writes under it, because his phone does not answer. Relatives cannot find him, he’s not in touch… In Stas’s apartment, there are signs of break-in and search.”
In his statement published on Ukrainska Pravda blogs, Firsov uncovers more details on Asieiev’s disappearance:
On June 3, Stanislav Aseev was to send his following material regarding life in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” but did not do so. Aseev did not come home and no longer answered phone calls, the connection with him was lost. Last time he contacted his mother was June 2 afternoon. He said that he was approaching Donetsk and would come to her the next day. But he did not come.
Mr. Firsov states that it was possible to find out that Asieiev was alive, he was detained by representatives of the so-called “Ministry of State Security” (MGB) of the terrorist organization “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
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