Kirill Vyshinsky
© RIA Novosti
Editor in chief Kirill Vyshinsky at a court hearing in Kyiv on April 4.
Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, arrested in Ukraine over treason changes, says the authorities had never aimed for an actual trial and simply put him behind bars in order to use him as a bargaining chip.

"The motive and the goal of my detention were purely political, so, of course, I believe that my case is political as well," Vyshinsky told Ruptly video agency following his hearing in a Kiev court on Tuesday. The trial has nothing to do with "finding out the truth, punishing the guilty, and so on," he stressed.

"[My case] is an embarrassment for the country. It is ridiculous to prosecute a journalist for doing his job, with having political goals in mind."

Vyshinsky was arrested in May 2018 when he was the chief of the RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency. The prosecutors claim that he had committed treason by backing the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) in the east of Ukraine. The journalist denied the charges, insisting that he covered the positions of both sides of the conflict. If proven guilty, he would face up to 15 years in prison.

The arrested journalist believes that the state had originally come after him to later use in a prisoner exchange. "I am 100 percent sure that no one had intended to put me on trial," he said.

"It was politically important for them to keep me behind bars, in order to blackmail with the possibility to put me up for an exchange."

The people who launched the prosecution are "not in power anymore," Vyshinsky noted, hoping that the new authorities will be "more sober-minded and understand what my case is about."

The suspect had previously complained that his health deteriorated behind bars, and he suffered heart problems in detention.

Vyshinsky's arrest sparked "serious concern" from the OSCE. The organization's media freedom chief, Harlem Desir, spoke out against extending the journalist's pre-trial detention, which had been done several times.

Desir called on Kiev to "expedite" the investigation on the charges brought against Vyshinsky and handle the case "in full compliance with the principles of rule of law, necessity and proportionality."

Journalists have the right to freely voice their opinions, including "dissenting views," and to report on "issues that could be considered controversial, sensitive or offensive," he said in October.