(Moscow) A Moscow elected official, Alexeï Gorinov, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday for having denounced the Russian assault against Ukraine, in the midst of a wave of repression to silence any criticism of the offensive decided by Vladimir Putin.
Since February 24, the date of the entry of Russian forces into Ukraine, the authorities have introduced a series of laws to punish heavy penalties for those who publicly condemn this attack, banishing the use of the words “war” and “invasion”. “.
Judge Olessia Mendeleeva found the 60-year-old opponent guilty of having “disseminated clearly false information” about the Russian army using “his official functions” and of having done so as part of an organized group motivated by “political hatred”.
“The recovery of the accused is impossible without a custodial sentence,” said the magistrate before sentencing him to seven years in a penal colony.
Previously, the public of the trial had applauded the defendant, leading to the expulsion from the room of the people who came to support him.
Mr. Gorinov is the first opponent, an elected member moreover, to receive a prison sentence for his positions against Russian intervention in Ukraine. Other activists are currently awaiting trial in detention.
“The Russian president said that the full support of the people for the special operation must be ensured. If the verdict was not so severe, we could have accused the judge of disobeying the president, ”said Vladimir Roslov, an 82-year-old retiree who came to court to support the elected official.
Punished “for his opinions”
Shortly before sentencing, standing in the glass cage reserved for the accused, the gray-haired man, his face tense and his gaze piercing, held before the cameras a sheet crossed out with the words “You still need her, this war ? »
Another elected municipal official, Elena Kotenotchkina, is accused of the same facts, but is not judged because she fled Russia, like many opposition activists fearing the repression, which has further increased in Russia in recent months.
A lawyer by training, Mr. Gorinov was arrested in April for having denounced Moscow’s “aggression” against Ukraine on March 15, where now “children are dying every day”, during a meeting of his district municipal assembly, session filmed and broadcast on YouTube.
“All efforts of civil society must be used to end the war and lead to the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory,” he said in particular.
Mr. Gorinov, who has been imprisoned since April 26 in Moscow, will appeal his conviction, according to his lawyer, Katerina Tertoukhina, judging that he had been punished for “his words, his opinions, his convictions”.
“In her verdict, the judge said that freedom of speech in our country could be limited,” she added.
The wife of the chosen one, Alla, cried when she heard the verdict: “I lived with him for 32 years, I hoped that my happiness would continue”.
Thursday, during a previous hearing, Mr. Gorinov had insisted on being “against all wars”.
He also cited the names of Ukrainian towns like Boutcha where Russian forces are accused of war crimes, abuses that Russian authorities say are lies or staged.
Since the launch of the offensive in Ukraine, dozens of people who publicly criticized it have been prosecuted in Russia.
Most have been fined, but others risk heavy prison sentences, such as Vladimir Kara-Mourza, one of the few opponents who remained in Russia.
Another example, Alexandra Skotchilenko, an artist from Saint Petersburg imprisoned since April, is awaiting trial for sticking pacifist labels in a supermarket.
Russia, which has already been engaged for many years in repressing voices critical of the Kremlin, has considerably toughened its criminal arsenal against those who denounce Russian power.
This week, Parliament adopted a series of texts providing for heavy prison sentences with very vague language to repress calls to act against its security or even “confidential” cooperation with foreigners.
Since February, Russia has also blocked many Russian and foreign media on its territory, as well as some of the biggest social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.