MOskow’s courts and Vladimir Putin’s officials are particularly busy at the moment. Some have to judge a large number of members of the opposition. The others organize one ceremony after another for the Russian President to confirm to the Russians and Putin themselves that they are still on the right course at the end of this “difficult year” – according to the widespread formula.
The verdict against Ilya Yashin on Friday stood out from the multitude of trials. The Meshchansky District Court sentenced the opposition politician to eight and a half years in prison. Yashin “knowingly spread false information” about the Russian armed forces. It was about a YouTube stream in which Yashin spoke about the murder of civilians in Bucha near Kiev in early April. The judge, Oxana Gorjunova, did not accept that Yashin, in addition to foreign media reports on what was happening in the occupied Bucha, also cited the position of the Russian Ministry of Defense (“provocation”). Even after his release, Yashin will not be allowed to use the internet for four years.
The judge did not rule out the public
In his closing remarks on Monday, Yashin described it as his “mission” to “tell the truth”. At home, not in exile. He thanked the judge for not excluding the public, as is usual in proceedings against members of the opposition. In addition, Yashin had previously expressed understanding that Gorjunova was under pressure as a “cog in the system” and had to find him guilty. The judge was originally scheduled to announce the verdict on Wednesday. On that day, however, only an unspecified “evacuation” of the courthouse left the numerous friends and supporters of Yashin waiting in the cold. Then the verdict was postponed to Friday. Now, in addition to Yashin’s supporters, pro-Kremlin activists came to the court, filming and trying to elicit incriminating statements from people.
The verdict against Yashin is the harshest yet on “fake news” about the armed forces. In the summer, Moscow local politician Alexey Gorinov, who was a member of parliament in the same district with Yashin, was sentenced to almost seven years in prison for this censorship offense introduced in the spring. Gorinov had demanded that no district festivities be held as long as the war lasted. Yashin had his lawyers publish a statement on the verdict on Telegram: the authors assessed “Putin’s perspectives” as “too optimistic”. “The state power wants to intimidate us all with this hysterical verdict, but it only shows its weakness.” Strong leaders are calm and self-confident, “only weaklings want to shut everyone up”.
22 years in camp for work as a journalist
A particularly large number of cases are currently reporting on this endeavor. On Wednesday, an appellate court upheld the 22-year sentence against journalist Ivan Safronov for treason. By all accounts, Safronov was punished for writing articles on defense issues using publicly available sources. Family, friends and journalists were only admitted to the verdict. Safronov, who wrote for the newspaper Kommersant for a long time, is now being transferred to a penal camp. “22 years for lyrics is strong,” Safronow said. “But conscience is worth it.” In two and a half years in custody, he hadn’t charged anyone, “met a lot of interesting and strong people” and will write a book about it.
In another trial on Thursday, the prosecution demanded that Moscow district deputy Ketevan Charaidze be sentenced to six years in prison. The politician is accused of cheating on a building contractor. Two banknotes serve as evidence. The process got underway after Kharaidze announced that he wanted to run for the 2021 Duma elections. Nothing came of it. But last September, Kharaidze was even able to defend her seat on the district council while she was under house arrest. However, the fact that those in power allowed this candidacy is explained by the verdict against Kharaidze, which is expected next week.