Ukraine's Poroshenko Bans Journalists for 'Threatening National interests'

Updated | Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko banned a number of Western and Russian journalists from the country, accusing them of being a "threat to national interests" or promoting "terrorist activities," according to a list published on the presidential website on Wednesday.

Two British journalists working for the BBC—Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg and producer Emma Wells— and BBC cameraman Anton Chicherov had been banned from entering Ukraine but Judith Gough, the British ambassador to Ukraine, confirmed on Twitter that the BBC journalists would be released.

Two Spanish journalists, Antonio Pampliega and Angel Sastre, were also included on the blacklist although Sastre went missing in Syria in July and has not been seen since. The decree, signed by Poroshenko, indicated that all have been banned for one year.

The decree alluded to their involvement in the Russian annexation of the Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Rhetoric from Ukrainian media and authorities surrounding the conflict with the rebels refers to the separatists as "terrorists."

Before the British journalists' release was announced, the BBC's foreign editor Andrew Roy condemned the ban, who he said were reporting fairly in the country. "This is a shameful attack on media freedom," he said, according to The Guardian. "These sanctions are completely inappropriate and inexplicable measures to take against BBC journalists who are reporting the situation in Ukraine impartially and objectively and we call on the Ukrainian government to remove their names from this list immediately."

Russian state news channels Rossiya-24, Channel One and NTV were also banned from entering Ukraine as well as Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, parliamentary speaker Sergei Naryshkin and the head of the foreign affairs committee Alexei Pushkov. The leader of the Chechen republic within Russia, Ramzan Kadyrov, was also banned.

According the United Nations, almost 8,000 people have been killed in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Poroshenko also condemned the elections planned by the separatist rebels to begin on October 18, saying they contravened a peace deal signed in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, in February between the rebels and Kiev, Reuters reported.

"The leaders of the so-called DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LNR (Luhansk People's Republic) have announced a decision, which they have taken in coordination with the Russian Federation, to hold fake illegal elections, which contradict the Minsk agreements," he said.

"This risky and irresponsible decision requires our firm and coordinated reaction to the threat created to the Minsk agreements, such as prolongation and widening of sanctions."