Conflicts & War

Prosecutors request 9-year term for opposition leader for criticizing war

Moscow, Dec 5 (EFE).- Russian prosecutors on Monday requested a nine-year prison sentence for opposition leader Ilya Yashin for allegedly spreading false information about the war in Ukraine.

Yashin committed the alleged crime on April 7 when discussing the Russian army’s campaign during a live broadcast on his YouTube channel.

The charges were brought under a new law criminalizing what the Kremlin deems to be false reporting about the Russian war in Ukraine that was introduced in the wake of the invasion.

Prosecutor Sergey Belov accused Yashin of “presenting as a proven fact” war crimes allegedly perpetrated by Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian town of Bucha near Kyiv out of “political hatred” of the Kremlin.

After Russian occupying forces left the town in early April, Ukrainian authorities found over 450 bodies of civilians in the town, including some who appeared to have been executed with their hands tied behind their backs.

Belov also directly accused Yashin of disseminating “hostile information” by spreading only reports from unfriendly countries and their satellites, and of “helping the enemy” by criticizing Russian authorities and media.

Yashin’s lawyers argued that the prosecution had failed to present any conclusive evidence that he had committed a crime.

Specifically, they said the prosecution ignored the fact that Yashin had cited both Russian and foreign media in his live broadcast, as well as Russian defense ministry reports.

They also accused the Prosecutor’s Office of trying to turn the hearing against Yashin into a trial about what occurred in Bucha.

Remanded in custody since July, the former municipal deputy recalled that other public figures such as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov also criticized the Army and no one brought criminal cases against them.

At the beginning of the trial he claimed to be “an independent deputy, a critic (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and against the war with Ukraine.”

Yashin, an ally of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is serving nine years in prison, is one of the few Kremlin critics who has not left Russia since the start of the “special military operation,” Moscow’s term for the war.

“I regret my own naivety. My colleagues and I myself lived in a mirage and believed that Putin’s system could be changed at the roots by civilized methods,” he admitted in an interview published by the online newspaper Meduza.

Amnesty International in July called for an end to the criminal prosecution of the opposition leader for exercising the right to freedom of expression and “criticizing the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine”.

The Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office denounced the discovery in Bucha, 30 kilometers from Kyiv, of over 400 bodies with signs of gunshots, torture and woundeds of varying severity, some which were exhumed from mass graves.

The European Union said last week it would back a UN court to investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine. EFE


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