Two Russian journalists were arrested in Turkey, the channel they work for – NTV said in a statement on December 4th. Journalists Alexei Petrushko and his cameraman Ivan Malychkin “informed the editorial staff that they had been arrested by police…in Istanbul”.
Both work for the programme ‘Tsentralnoie Televidenie’, which positions itself as a weekly news show.
According to a source in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the journalists were arrested as they were “filming a drone factory without any accreditation”.
“They arrived in Istanbul for filming, but have received neither permission nor accreditation” to film, the unnamed source told AFP.
The illegal filming was carried out near the facilities of Turkey’s leading private drone manufacturer Baykar, Daily Sabah sources said.
“The Istanbul Police Department detained two Russian nationals (I.M. and A.P.) and a Turkish national (A.C.K.) at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, upon detecting that they were filming, without authorization, near the drone research and development center in our province, where taking photographs and filming are restricted,” a statement by the Istanbul Governor’s Office said.
The statement added that the official investigation is ongoing and on the chief prosecutor’s orders, the detention period for the individuals in question has been extended for three more days.
The Russian embassy in Turkey said it was in contact with the Turkish authorities to clarify the situation.
“We are counting on operational cooperation” on the Turkish side, the embassy said in a statement published on its Facebook page.
Notably, the two Russian journalists were with a Turkish national.
According to most recent reports, the two journalists were facing trial and up to 20 years in prison for espionage if they were found guilty. Those who fall into the “spy” category are usually, after sentencing, are traded over for other “spies”, or returned under external pressure – much less often. Keeping them is a waste, and they are, after all citizens of a “partner” and could be given back against some sort of concession. After all, a citizen of a close ally could simply be given back, freely.
An example of the release under external pressure is an example of US citizen, pastor Andrew Brunson, who was detained in Turkey not just for espionage, but for anti-state activities. n 2018, the United States put quite serious pressure on Turkey, “slightly collapsing” the Turkish lira, after which the pastor was convicted, house arrest was credited in real time, and right from the courtroom he went to the United States on a military plane to meet with Donald Trump, who welcomed him as a hero.
The second scenario is an exchange: the question for whom will the NTV journalists be exchanged? Here, again, there are two approaches: for Russia to detain a Turkish citizen and exchange him, or to use the existing “pool” of detainees. It, however, appears that there are no Turkish citizens detained in Russia, meaning that Turkey may be given somebody of value to them.
The third scenario, stemming from the “special relationship” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cannot be counted on. Having received such a trump card, the Turks will not throw it off just for “friendship and cooperation.”
Furthermore, multiple journalists usually have issues with being allowed with journalist credentials in many countries, including Turkey. And usually, they’re fine in traveling as tourists and, generally, there is no issue. In recent weeks, however, there’s been a sort of veiled tension between Russia and Turkey in regard to Idlib, Nagorno-Karabakh, deployment of militants from Syria to assist Azerbaijan and more. As such, Russian journalists do their due diligence when they enter the country. It could be considered that these two hoped that they would be fine with the “tourist” approach, but Turkey is keeping watch on most, if not everything that goes on in the country, and it backfired, just this once.
The court released the NTV journalists detained earlier on December 3 in Istanbul. They are expected to be deported to Russia in the near future. This approach is an unprecedentedly soft for the modern Turkey and demonstrates that despite the existing conflicts of interests in some fields on the ‘tactical level’, currently, Ankara views Moscow as an important partner and is not ready to escalate relations with it over some ‘minor issues’. At the same time, Russia and Turkey, in the current situation, have no large strategic contradictions that allow the powers to actively cooperate on the international scene.
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