European Federation of Journalists

Ukraine: who tried to intimidate prominent journalist Yurii Nikolov?

Credits: Yurii Nikolov.

Ukrainian investigative journalist Yurii Nikolov said on Monday that he received a visit from unidentified people threatening him. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its affiliates in Ukraine, NUJU and IMTUU, call on the Ukrainian authorities to identify the perpetrators of the threats and ensure the protection of the journalist.

Nikolov is a co-founder and an editor of the Nashi Groshi investigative media project. He is well known for his investigations exposing corruption in Ukraine’s public procurement, including the Defense Ministry. Nikolov’s investigations into inflated prices for food supplies and low-quality winter jackets for the military prompted the ousting of previous Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

Late on Sunday, two unidentified men approached Nikolov’s apartment, in Kyiv, banging on his door and verbally attacking him, the journalist said on Facebook. He added that only his elderly mother was at home at the moment of this threatening visit. According to the journalist, fifteen minutes later, a post with footage from the scene appeared on the anonymous Telegram channel Kartochnyy Ofis, allegedly linked to the Presidential Office. The video shows a man knocking on a door pasted with papers with the words “traitor, (military service) evader,” and other verbal attacks, demanding that somebody open the door. The voice of another man, also knocking on the door and shouting aggressively, is heard in the video.

The police said they were ascertaining the details of the incident.

A post by an anonymous pro-Zelenskiy Telegram channel called “Office of Cards” said the intrusion had been conducted by soldiers who had come back from the front lines. The post heavily criticised Nikolov. Speaking on national television, Nikolov highlighted that this anonymous post suggested the incident was linked to disparaging comments he made about Ukraine’s president.

IMTUU condemns the harassment, persecution and obstruction of the journalist. The union suspects the Ukrainian president’s entourage of being behind the threats: “It seems that some government officials have decided to attack  journalists through anonymous Telegram channels,” said IMTUU President Serhiy Shturkhetsky. “After journalist Vladislav Sydorenko, in December, they’re going after journalist Yurii Nikolov. If the Ukrainian authorities are truly not involved in these attacks, they must commission a swift investigation and punish the perpetrators and the masterminds”.

“Intimidation of investigative journalists is unacceptable,” said NUJU President Sergiy Tomilenko. “When a prominent journalist is pressured that way, the result is a chilling effect on all journalists. We call on the police to investigate promply this case and to protect Yurii Nikolov”.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, an opposition lawmaker who heads Ukraine’s parliamentary committee on freedom of speech, said he considered the incident met the legal definition for hindering the work of a journalist.