The released journalists were met with applause from a group of supporters who had gathered outside the Hall of Justice.
According to the official report on their interrogation, Turkish prosecutors did not find any wrongdoing on the journalists’ part.
The staffers were assaulted by Turkish nationalists on Saturday and went missing after turning to Ankara police for help. They had been presumed detained, yet the law enforcement in Turkey’s capital denied any knowledge of their whereabouts, according to RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.
Shortly after their release, Mahir Boztepe, the head of Sputnik’s Turkish branch, was freed from police custody as well. The journalist was briefly detained amid searches of Sputnik’s Istanbul office.
The Sputnik employees were released shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. The top diplomat urged Ankara to “swiftly resolve” the situation with the journalists and called upon the authorities to ensure their safety.
The harassment of the Sputnik journalists has been condemned by seven Turkish journalist associations, as well as by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Harlem Desir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, urged Ankara to “ensure the safety of foreign correspondents,” and raised concerns over reports linking the detention to a Sputnik article.
Some Turkish media reports suggested that the assault on Sputnik might have been linked to its article on Turkey’s Hatay province, which was long disputed by Syria.