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(Reuters) – Ukraine has granted citizenship to prominent Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov who fled Russia with his wife after denouncing the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian official said on Friday.

Russia has been seeking the arrest of Nevzorov, accusing him of spreading false information about what Moscow portrays as its “special military operation” in Ukraine. He and his wife fled Russia in March.

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian interior minister said the authorities in Kyiv had granted citizenship to Nevzorov and his wife Lydia.

Nevzorov confirmed he had received Ukrainian citizenship in a statement on Telegram messenger in which he said Russia’s war was a crime and Ukraine its victim.

“I take the side of the victim. And I am damn grateful to those tormented, desperate, bloodied people of Ukraine who allowed me to take my place among them,” he said.

Russia launched an investigation against Nevzorov, whose YouTube channel has over 1.8 million subscribers, after he reported that Russian forces had deliberately shelled a maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol.

Russia has denied the bombing accusing Ukraine of a “staged provocation.

The investigation was launched after Russia in March passed a law that envisages jail terms of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.

Last December, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a law that simplified the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship for Russians who are persecuted for political reasons in their own country.

The president’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Millions of people have been displaced and thousands killed in what Kyiv and the West say is a war of aggression and what Moscow describes as a campaign to disarm its southern neighbour and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists.


(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Tomasz Janowski)

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