“We want to inform you that Ihor Huzhva travelled to Vienna and asked the authorities of the Republic of Austria to grant him political asylum in line with the accepted procedure. It is worth emphasizing that Ihor Huzhva left for Austria after the expiry of the pre-trial restriction imposed on him by the court which gave him the legal right to leave Ukraine,” says the address of the editorial board of the Strana.ua to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko published on Jan.31, Censor.NET reports citing Interfax-Ukraine.
"The large-scale dissolution of the courts carried out by the president put each judge on a hook and sharply reduced the already small possibilities of the judiciary to resist pressure. By manipulating criminal cases and threatening with imprisonment, the authorities would receive the leverage on me to change Strana's editorial policy... After leaving Ukraine and applying for political asylum, this important leverage can no longer be used," Huzhva wrote on social media late on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
The journalist stressed that this was the main motive for leaving the country.
He confirmed that he had left "completely legally," since the effect of the measure of restraint banning him from leaving Kyiv expired on Jan. 6.
"After that I freely left the country," Huzhva added.
At the same time, Huzhva remains the editor-in-chief of the media outlet and continues running Strana from abroad.
"Our site will work in the same format, increasing turnover and actively developing," the editorial board said.
As reported, Huzhva was arrested in Kyiv on June 22, 2017. According to Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko, Huzhva extorted $10,000 in exchange for not publishing dirt on an incumbent politician.
On June 23, Dmytro Linko, a Verkhovna Rada deputy from the Radical Party faction, confirmed that Huzhva had extorted money from him.
Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office reported that Huzhva and his mediator had been detained on charges of large-scale extortion.
Huzhva was placed in a two-month pre-trial detantion with an option to post 544,000 hryvnia in bail. He was later bailed out and released from the pre-trial detention facility.
The editorial office was searched several times.