MOSCOW, August 10 (RIA Novosti) – International Information News Agency Rossiya Segodnya launched #FreeAndrew campaign to raise awareness of missing photographer Andrei Stenin, to attract attention to the safety issues that war journalists face, and to raise awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Ukraine.
The campaign was launched on Sunday next to RIA Novosti HQ and Gorky Park, where dozens of volunteers, mostly Stenin’s colleagues, handed out leaflets with Andrei’s photographs, calling to support the demand for his release in social networks.
Late on Sunday, a pop-up photo exhibition of Andrei Stenin’s works was organized next the agency’s headquarters. Andrei’s photographs from Ukraine’s southeastern regions captured the countries humanitarian crisis.
“Andrei Stenin is a great photojournalist. Today’s campaign [has been launched] to attract attention to Andrei’s problem and to general security issues which journalists face while working in hot spots and especially in Donetsk,” head of the Integrated Photography Directorate at RIA Novosti Alexander Shtol told journalists. He also elaborated that the display would soon be expanded with more of Stenin’s works, adding that as the exhibition is an open-air event, a lot would depend on weather conditions.
Shtol stressed that the display of Stenin’s works also portrays the conflict in Ukraine as a humanitarian catastrophe.
“These [photographs] are masterpieces. They aim for the very heart, they strike a chord. These kinds of wars mustn’t ever happen. A war does not solve political problems and what is happening in eastern Ukraine is a humanitarian catastrophe,” Shtol added.
The participants of the campaign that were distributing leaflets with Stenin’s works said that many people were aware of his disappearance.
“Many people took leaflets, which made us really happy. People follow the news and are aware of what had happened,” one of the volunteers said, adding that youth and couples took particular interest in the campaign.
Another volunteer told RIA Novosti that many people offered financial support. “People take interest and ask how they can help. Many offer money, but we explain that it is a support campaign, we just want to free our colleague as soon as possible and share the information,” the volunteer said.
“When people learnt that it is not just promotion and that we are not simply distributing leaflets but are assisting with a real problem, they responded,” he stressed.
Andrei Stenin was working in Donetsk, Slaviansk and other eastern Ukrainian cities. He disappeared on August 5. An informed source told RIA Novosti on Friday that Stenin was being held by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in the Zaporizhia Region in southern Ukraine. The local SBU office, however, claimed it hadn’t detained any Russian media employees.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that Russia was making all possible efforts to secure Stenin’s return.
Rossiya Segodnya Director-General Dmitry Kiselev called on Friday for the release of the agency’s photographer and emphasized the humanitarian nature of Stenin’s work.