09:38 01.02.2018

Strana.ua chief editor Huzhva flees Ukraine, asks Austrian authorities for political asylum

Strana.ua chief editor Huzhva flees Ukraine, asks Austrian authorities for political asylum

Ihor Huzhva, editor-in-chief of the Strana.ua media outlet, has fled to Vienna and asked the Austrian authorities for political asylum, motivating his actions by possible pressure on him on the part of the judiciary.

"The large-scale dissolution of the courts carried out by the president put each judge on a hook and sharply reduced the already small possibilities of the judiciary to resist pressure. By manipulating criminal cases and threatening with imprisonment, the authorities would receive the levers of pressure on me to change Strana's editorial policy... After leaving Ukraine and applying for political asylum, this important lever of pressure can no longer be used," he wrote on his Facebook page late on Wednesday, January 31.

Huzhva stressed that this was the main motive for leaving the country.

He confirmed that he had left "completely legally," since the effect of the measure of restraint banning him from leaving Kyiv expired on January 6.

"After that I freely left the country," Huzhva added.

An appeal from the editorial board of the Strana.ua media outlet to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, which was published on its website on January 31, states: "We want to inform you that Ihor Huzhva went to Vienna and asked for political asylum from the authorities of the Republic of Austria in line with the accepted procedure. It is worth emphasizing that Ihor Huzhva left for Austria after the period of the preventive punishment determined by the court had expired and he received the legal right to leave Ukraine."

At the same time, Huzhva remains the editor-in-chief of the media outlet and continues to manage Strana from abroad.

"Our site will work in the same format, increasing turnover and actively developing," the editorial board said.

Huzhva was arrested in Kyiv on June 22, 2017. According to Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, Huzhva demanded $10,000 in exchange for not publishing compromising materials against an incumbent politician.

On June 23, Dmytro Linko, a Verkhovna Rada deputy from the Radical Party faction, confirmed that Huzhva had demanded money from him.

Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office reported that Huzhva and his mediator had been detained on suspicion of large-scale extortion under Part 3, Article 189 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Huzhva was arrested for two months with an option to post UAH 544,000 bail. The bail was later posted, and he left the pre-trial detention center.

The editorial board was searched several times.

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