Russian court hands 25 years to arson plotter accused of Ukraine links

Lawyers for Ilya Baburin say there is no evidence of his involvement in the crimes in Siberia in 2022.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin [File: Sergei Guneyev/AP]

A court in Russia has sentenced a man to 25 years in jail for plotting an arson attack against a military recruitment office.

Ilya Baburin, 24, was sentenced by a court in Novosibirsk on Monday, on charges including treason. Prosecutors had claimed that he had plotted to burn down the recruitment office in Siberia on instruction from Ukraine in 2022, the year Moscow launched its invasion of its neighbour.

The prosecutors claimed that the attack, which did not happen, was being planned at the behest of an unidentified person from Ukraine. They accused Baburin of seeking to help the Azov battalion, a branch of the Ukrainian military branded a terror organisation in Russia.

Russia saw a wave of arson attacks on army offices after the Kremlin announced an unpopular military mobilisation drive in September 2022, the month Baburin was arrested.

The court also found him guilty of setting fire to a local music school, which it categorised as a terrorist act.

Rights groups say the sentence is a record length, and stressed that the arson never happened.

The Perviy Otdel (First Department) legal association rights group cited his lawyer as saying there was no evidence of Baburin’s involvement in the incidents, in which no casualties were reported.

“Baburin does not look like a spy giving out state secrets and did not have or hand out state secrets,” his lawyer Vasily Dubkov said, according to a transcript of a statement delivered in court.

Zona Solidarnosti (Solidarity Zone), a Telegram channel that provides information about Russian antiwar activists, quoted Dubkov as saying: “No, he [Baburin] did not kill, rape or rob anyone. Even according to the indictment, no one was harmed by his actions”.

“Does a person really deserve to spend half his life in a prison or colony for such crimes?” he asked.

The court argued that Baburin had “created a plan to set the military commissariat in Novosibirsk on fire”.

It said he had recruited somebody to throw a Molotov cocktail at the army office but the unnamed person instead reported him to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).

It alleged that he was acting on Ukrainian orders and that he had “established contact” with members of the Azov battalion.

The Russian TASS news agency published footage of Baburin in court, smiling inside a glass cage for defendants. “I did not set anything on fire,” he said, according to the independent Dozhd TV channel.

Baburin accused the FSB of trying to “gain points” during Moscow’s Ukraine campaign and of “investigating absurd crimes”.

More than 20,000 people have been detained in Russia for their antiwar stance since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to Russian rights group OVD-Info. Some 900 people have been charged with criminal offences.

Source: News Agencies