A Russian court sentenced a man to three years in a penal colony on Monday for mocking a boy wearing a hat with the pro-Ukraine-invasion “Z” symbol.

The man, Alexander Neustroyev, was last year filmed shouting, “Stick that hat up your arse, you idiot!” at a passing 11-year-old boy, security camera footage posted on Russian media showed.

The “Z” letter, which was painted on Russian tanks sent into Ukraine in February 2022, has become a high-profile symbol of support for Russia's military campaign, plastered on billboards, buildings and vehicles across the country.

It’s also been found graffitied on the walls of Ukrainian homes that had been taken over by Russian soldiers and carved into the cheeks of Ukrainian prisoners to torture them.


The verdict is the latest years-long jail sentence handed down by a Russian court over public criticism of President Vladimir Putin's campaign in Ukraine, that Moscow officially calls a “special military operation.”

A district court in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg sentenced Neustroyev to three years in a penal settlement – a low-security form of prison – over the incident, for which he was officially charged with “hooliganism” with the threat of violence, prosecutors said.

The boy had come home in tears, his mother told local media, which published a photo of him wearing a black beanie hat with a large white “Z” on the front.

His mother said he wanted to wear the logo because he was proud of his father, who was serving in Russia's National Guard in Ukraine. 

Neustroyev, a builder, was arrested soon after by armed riot police who stormed his house in body armor and helmets.

Interrogated on video at the police station, he said he was “deeply repentant.”

A court initially fined him 7,000 rubles ($79) and closed the case, but senior politicians and prosecutors appealed saying the punishment was too light, leading to a retrial.


Those who speak out against Moscow's military action in Ukraine risk heavy penalties.

A 68-year-old Moscow pediatrician is currently on trial, facing up to a decade in jail, for allegedly telling a patient's mother that her ex-husband, a soldier killed in Ukraine, was a legitimate target for Kyiv.

Last week a blogger who livestreamed witnesses talking about alleged Russian atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

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