Russia seeks 14 years jail for Ukrainian reporter Roman Sushchenko

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Russian prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to find a Ukrainian journalist guilty of espionage and jail him for 14 years, his defense lawyer said on Monday.

Journalist Roman Sushchenko -- who worked for Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform since 2002 -- was detained in Russia in 2016 and Russia’s FSB security agency accused him of serving in Ukrainian military intelligence and gathering state secrets.

Pro-Western Kiev blasted the allegations against Sushchenko at the time of his detention, portraying them as the latest aggressive move in the stand-off over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Lawyer Mark Feigin, who is defending Sushchenko, told AFP that “the prosecution requested 14 years for Sushchenko,” while the maximum sentence prosecutors could seek is 20 years.

Judges do not have to follow prosecutors’ guidance on sentencing but rarely impose higher sentences than requested.

Sushchenko’s trial at Moscow City Court has been closed to the public and press. His sentencing has been announced for June 4.

Sushchenko was working as Ukrinform’s Paris correspondent at the time of his arrest and the agency said that he was detained while visiting Moscow on holiday.

He has denied any guilt and said in his final speech in court that he considers he was framed by the Russian security service, Feigin told Interfax news agency.

Feigin suggested to AFP that prosecutors had asked for a less than maximum jail term for Sushchenko to avoid more unwelcome publicity as another prominent Ukrainian prisoner is currently on hunger strike calling for the release of Ukrainians he sees as political prisoners.