Russia: Putin critic gets 8 years in jail for ‘false information’

Ilya Yashin was charged after casting doubt over the Kremlin’s narrative on atrocities that took place in Bucha, Ukraine.

Russian opposition leader, former Moscow's municipal deputy Ilya Yashin gestures in a defendants' glass cage prior to a verdict hearing at the Meshchansky district court in Moscow, Russia, December 9, 2022. Prosecution requested nine years in prison for Yashin for spreading fake information about the Russian army. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS
Ilya Yashin gestures in a defendants' glass cage prior to his verdict at the Meshchansky district court in Moscow on Friday [Yuri Kochetkov via Reuters]

Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for “spreading fake information” about the Russian army.

Judge Oksana Goryunova of the Moscow district court said on Friday that Yashin, 39, will serve the sentence in a penal colony and has 10 days to appeal the verdict.

Yashin was tried over a YouTube video released in April in which he discussed evidence uncovered by Western journalists of Russian atrocities in Bucha, near Kyiv, and cast doubt on the official Moscow version that such reports had been fabricated as a “provocation” against Russia.

Yashin is also an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

“Another shameless and lawless verdict from Putin will not silence Ilya and it should not intimidate Russia’s honest people,” Navalny wrote on social media accounts managed by his team.

“This is another reason why we must fight and I have no doubt that we will win in the end,” added Navalny, who is serving more than 11 years for fraud, contempt of court and parole violations – all of which he rejected as trumped-up charges intended to silence him.

‘Don’t give way to evil’

After it invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, Russia passed new legislation that provides for jail terms of up to 15 years for disseminating false information about the military.

In his final statement to the court earlier this week, Yashin appealed directly to Putin, describing him as “the person responsible for this slaughter” and asking him to “stop this madness”.

“Looking at the consequences of this monstrous war, you yourself probably realise what a grave error you committed on February 24. Our army isn’t being greeted with flowers. They call us punishers and occupiers. The words ‘death’ and ‘destruction’ are now firmly associated with your name,” Yashin said.

“You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us,” he added.

Since the start of the conflict, Russia has moved to quash almost all forms of dissent, with most of its prominent opposition figures either in jail or exile.

Yashin urged his supporters to stay cheerful.

“Please don’t fall into despair and don’t forget that this is our country,” he said. “It is worth fighting for. Be bold, don’t give way to evil, and resist.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies