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Ukraine15 July 2005

Two journalists attacked in southern city of Kherson

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Ukrainian authorities to give journalists better protection after photographer Maxim Soloviev and reporter Natalia Kozarenko of the weekly Vhoru were physically attacked by suspected private security guards on 12 July in the southern city of Kherson and their equipment was taken.

"The seizure of equipment and material from journalists is a serious violation of their freedom to inform the public, and is even more serious when force is used," the press freedom organisation said, urging interior minister Yuri Lutsenko to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of journalists in Ukraine, especially in the Kherson region.

The incident took place when the two Vhoru journalists went to cover the dismantling of the privately-owned shop Columbia on Suvorova street in the centre of Kherson following a dispute between the owner and spurned would-be purchasers in which both judicial and city authorities have become involved.

Soloviev and Kozarenko were prevented from approaching the shop by three men who initially identified themselves as police, then as government officials, and finally as "Ukrainian citizens." They grabbed the journalists and one of them began to throttle Soloviev until he let go of his digital camera. They also roughed up Kozarenko and snatched her tape-recorder.

The equipment was later returned, but without the camera’s memory card and the tape-recorder’s cassette.

The journalists, who sustained just a few bruises, said their enquiries indicated their assailants were employees of a privately-owned security company who had probably been hired to prevent the press or any other persons from obstructing the dismantling of the shop. Police, who stood by during the incident without intervening, later aid they would try to identify the assailants.

Vhoru editor Natalia Bimbirayte has asked Aleksander Efimenko, the interior ministry official responsible for the Kherson Oblast region, to investigate. He promised to look into the case.

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