A court in Moscow has sentenced Ilya Yashin, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, to eight years and six months imprisonment for “spreading false information” about the Russian army.
Yashin, 39, a prominent opposition leader, ally of imprisoned politician Alexey Navalny, and a former municipal deputy, was accused by Russian investigators of breaking Russia’s law prohibiting the discrediting of its armed forces.
This is not the first time that Yashin has fallen foul of Russia’s oppressive clampdown on democracy and free speech. In December 2010, he was arrested for demonstrating in Moscow, after which he claims evidence against him was fabricated by police.
Following the kidnapping and torture of activist Leonid Razvozzhayev from Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2012, Yashin was again arrested for joining a protest in Moscow.
On June 27 of this year, he was again arrested, this time for his opposition to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and for accusing Russia of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
After Russian forces withdrew from the city in April, mass graves accompanied by video and photographic evidence emerged, with 458 bodies so far recovered, including nine children.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights documented a series of unlawful killings and summary executions of innocent civilians, with forensic evidence proving that many had been lined up with their hands tied behind their backs before being shot at point-blank range.
Despite this, the Kremlin has officially denied the involvement of any Russian troops in the carrying out of war crimes in Bucha.
As a result of his comments, on July 12, Yashin was again arrested in Moscow, accused by Russian investigators of disobeying a police officer and discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, with Yashin claiming the charges against him were politically motivated and intended to silence criticism directed towards President Putin.
The following day, July 13, Yashin was sentenced to imprisonment until September 12, with Amnesty International joining other organizations across the world in calling on Russia to free him immediately.
Passing sentence today, Friday Dec. 9, judge Oksana Goryunova of the Meshchansky district court said that Yashin had committed a crime by disseminating “knowingly false information about Russia’s Armed Forces.”
Handing down a sentence of eight and a half years, Goryunova did not make it clear if Yashin’s prison sentence includes the time he has already spent in jail during the proceedings.
Yashin’s supporters congregated outside the courthouse in Moscow this morning to denounce the trial and sentencing.
“This trial is unfair, it violated the constitutional rights to freedom of speech – not only Ilya’s rights, but also the rights of all Russian citizens,” said former Moscow municipal deputy Yulia Galyamina.
From the penal colony where he is serving a prison sentence widely deemed to also be politically motivated, Navalny issued a statement via Twitter, saying “this is yet another reason why we need to keep fighting, and I have no doubt we will ultimately win.”
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