On April 6, investigative outlet Slidstvo.Info reported that one of its journalists, Yevheny Shulhat, had recently been targeted in what appeared to be an intimidation attempt by authorities. Several days earlier, military recruitment officials approached Shulhat at a mall near his home in Kyiv, attempting to hand him a summons notice which could have led to the journalist’s drafting into the Ukrainian army.

While men in Shulhat’s age category can be legally drafted according to Ukraine’s martial law regulations, the timing and and context of the incident seemed to indicate this was not a regular operation as prescribed by Ukrainian legislation.

At the time, Shulhat was preparing an investigation into the head of the cybersecurity department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Ilia Vitiuk. CCTV cameras appeared to show that Oleksiy Bilenko, an aide to Vitiuk, was present at the mall before Shulhat’s arrival, where he seemed to be coordinating the activities of the military personnel who attempted to hand Shulhat the summons notice.

Such incidents are particularly worrying in the context of recent attempts at intimidating renowned investigative journalists in Ukraine, namely the team of Bihus.Info and reporter Yuri Nikolov.

While Ukrainian authorities have taken steps to investigate all these cases, their repeated occurrence seems to show systemic issues in the protections offered to investigative journalists in Ukraine. For this reason, IPI today sent a letter to Ukrainian authorities, asking for more systemic efforts.

The full text of the letter sent today can be found below.




Andriy Kostin
Prosecutor-General of Ukraine

Vasyl Maliuk
Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)

Oleksandr Syrskyi
Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Rustem Umerov
Minister of Defence of Ukraine


Vienna 12 April 2024

Dear Mr. Kostin, Mr. Maliuk, Mr. Syrskyi and Mr. Umerov,

I am writing to you on behalf of the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists, and publishers for media freedom. We are contacting you following worrying revelations made late last week by investigative outlet Slidstvo.Info, whose editor-in-chief Anna Babinets is a member of the IPI global network.

Based on this report, we are deeply troubled by the apparent irregular manner in which Slidstvo.Info investigative journalist Yevheny Shulhat was served a military summons while shopping at a popular mall in Kyiv’s Obolon district.

At the outset, we would like to emphasize that we are very aware of the mobilization regulations under martial law in Ukraine. We also wish to reiterate IPI’s support for Ukraine, and Ukrainian journalists in particular, in the resistance to Russia’s war of aggression. The purpose of this letter is not to request any legal exemptions for journalists, who must fulfil their duties like all other citizens.

However, the circumstances in this case suggest that these officials were not conducting a regular operation as prescribed by Ukrainian legislation.

First, footage by Slidstvo appears to show that military officials were aware of Shulhat’s location and were waiting for him, suggesting that he was under surveillance.

Second, CCTV recording from the mall shows that military officials were accompanied by a man whom Slidstvo.Info identified as Oleksiy Bilenko, an aide of Ilia Vitiuk, the (now former) head of the SBU’s cybersecurity department. This is especially concerning given that Shulhat had recently published an investigation into alleged illicit profits made by Vitiuk.

These circumstances raise serious and troubling questions about the attempt to hand a military summons document to Yevheny Shulhat – in particular, whether the effort to conscript him was intended to impede or punish his journalistic work.  

In this context, we acknowledge efforts by authorities to shed light on this incident, in particular the opening of a criminal investigation by the Prosecutor-General’s Office. We hope that this investigation will help answer questions that IPI and the Ukrainian journalistic community formulated in relation to the case. These include the following:

Was Yevheny Shulhat under surveillance prior to this incident and, if so, by whom and by what authorization? Under Ukrainian law and the European Convention of Human Rights, journalists have the right to protect their sources and therefore any surveillance of journalists is very problematic.

On what basis did military officials attempt to hand a summons notice to Shulhat specifically, aside from the fact that he had recently turned 27 and was earlier determined as fit for military service?

Does Ukrainian legislation allow for SBU officials to assist, instruct or otherwise support military commissariat officials in their efforts to recruit draftable men into the Ukrainian army?

Are there procedures in place to ensure that SBU officials do not use the authority of their position to potentially advance personal interests? Are these procedures similar for other Ukrainian state representatives?

In light of this situation, we call upon all concerned parties, namely the SBU, the Ministry of Defence as well as the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army, to conduct their own credible internal investigations into possible irregularities and abuse of power in this case, the results of which should be made public.

Additionally, while we acknowledge the fact that Ilia Vitiuk was suspended in his functions soon after the incident was made public, we call on authorities to establish systemic safeguards that prevent SBU officials from targeting journalists or other critics in retaliation for their work, and protect journalists who report on possible misconduct or crimes by SBU officials.

More broadly, we are concerned by this incident, as well as the recent case of alleged surveillance by SBU operatives of the team of investigative outlet Bihus.Info, and the intimidation attempt directed at journalist Yuri Nikolov, as together they seem to show a pattern of state-sponsored intimidation and harassment of investigative journalists in Ukraine.

Yours sincerely,

Frane Maroević
Executive Director