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Ukrainian President Accuses Journalist of Crossing Line; Editor Disputes It

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gestures during an open-air news conference, one year after his inauguration, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Kyiv, May 20, 2020.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused a reporter of Skhemy (Schemes), a joint investigative project by RFE/RL and UA: Pershy television, of crossing the line of balanced journalism and breaking laws in pursuing the Ukrainian leader, a charge the group denies.

During a news conference Wednesday to mark his first year in power, Zelenskiy singled out Skhemy reporter Mykhaylo Tkach, saying that the journalist was "everywhere, where I live, where I move, where I work ... always or almost every day on duty like a national guard."

"Please tell me if there is at least one country in the world where a journalist travels in the president's motorcade, right inside the president's motorcade, filming or not filming — I don't care, I have nothing to hide — but inside the presidential motorcade," Zelenskiy said.

"To my mind there must not be anything personal between journalism and the government, and one cannot break the law," Zelenskiy said.

Skhemy response

Skhemy's editorial board immediately responded to the president's comments, saying that Zelenskiy's accusations were groundless and its journalists act exclusively within Ukraine's laws and in accordance with journalistic standards.

"The president has decided to complain about our work publicly. It seems that the Ukrainian authorities are very annoyed by the work of independent media, which cover its shortcomings and unfulfilled promises," Natalia Sedletska, the project's editor in chief, wrote on Facebook.

"Zelenskiy even addressed a concrete person, attacking Mykhaylo Tkach, the author of numerous high-profile journalistic investigations into what was really happening on the sidelines of the Ukrainian politics. Skhemy's editorial board states that all our journalists, including Mykhaylo Tkach, act exclusively within the norms of the law and in accordance with journalistic standards," she added.

Sedletska noted that Skhemy's work "is aimed exclusively at covering socially important information that would otherwise remain secret or nonpublic."

"Our journalists are guided only by the interests of the society, not by a specific government or a specific president, and that is what the independent journalism is about," she said.