February 7, 2023

Eureka News

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Ilya Yashin: Kremlin critic sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, latest blow to remnants of Russian opposition

Eureka News Now —

A Moscow court on Friday sentenced Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin to eight years and six months in prison, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti, a blow to what remains of the country’s opposition.

It is unclear whether Yashin’s sentence for spreading “false information” about the Russian army includes the time he already spent in prison during the court hearings.

Russian investigators say his comments on the circumstances of the Bucha killings are a criminal offense under recently introduced law that makes discrediting the Russian armed forces illegal.

Yashin slammed the “authors” of the “hysterical verdict” in a post on his official Telegram account.

“The authors of the verdict are optimistic about Putin’s prospects. In my opinion, they are too optimistic,” he said.

“But we have no reason to be sad either, because we won this case, friends. The trial began with a denunciation of me as a “people’s doctor” but turned into an anti-war tribune. We have spoken the truth about war crimes and called for an end to the bloodshed. And in response, they heard a hodgepodge of Cold War slogans uttered in confusion by the prosecutor,” Yashin continued.

“The government wants to intimidate us all with this hysterical verdict, but it really only shows its weakness. Strong leaders are calm and confident, and only weaklings try to silence everyone and burn out any dissent. So today it only remains for me to repeat what was said on the day of my arrest: I am not afraid and you should not be afraid,” the post reads.

In his closing speech before the court on Monday, before the verdict, Yashin made a statement that he addressed to the judge, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian public. “As if they sewed my mouth shut and I was forbidden to speak forever. Everyone understands that’s the point,” he said.

“I’m isolated from society because they want me to be silent. I promise as long as I live I never will be. My mission is to tell the truth. I will not reveal the truth even behind bars. After all, to quote the classic: ‘Lying is the religion of slaves.’”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was “inappropriate” to question a court’s decision when asked to comment on Yashin’s sentencing on Friday.

“I think it’s totally unacceptable to interfere in the affairs of the courts, I think it’s inappropriate to question the court’s decision. And there are defined laws that designate rights to protect citizens and you can appeal to a higher authority. Mr Yashin’s lawyers certainly know what they should do,” Putin told reporters after a summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

When asked to comment on the court’s verdict on the Russian opposition figure, Putin first asked, “Who is Yashin?” and he only responded after a reporter told him who Yashin was.

Yashin, also a close ally of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, rose to prominence during the protests he helped organize in 2011-2012 against Putin’s re-election to a third term.

He remained a harsh critic of Putin for years, and also served as a municipal deputy in a small Moscow municipality before being barred from running for public office again.

In June he was sentenced to 15 days in prison for disobedience to the police, charges he said at the time were part of a pressure campaign by the authorities to force him to leave Russia.

Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020, an attack several Western officials and Navalny himself openly blamed on the Kremlin. Russia has denied any involvement.

After a five-month stay in Germany to recover from Novichok poisoning, Navalny returned to Moscow last year, where he was promptly arrested for violating probation periods imposed in a 2014 case. Earlier this year, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on allegations of fraud, which he says were politically motivated.

Navalny criticized Yashin’s detention on Friday. “Another shameless and lawless Putin verdict will not silence Ilya and should not intimidate the honest people of Russia,” he said in a statement posted to his social media accounts.

“It’s another reason why we have to fight and I have no doubt that in the end we will win.”

Navalny said in the statement Yashin was his “first friend” he found in politics and had known him since he was 18. And because of that, I know he did everything right and will endure anything,” he said.

Navalny concluded by stating that he was proud of Yashin and that he and Russia would be free.

Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldierov, who is on Russia’s most wanted list and lives in exile in London, told Eureka News Now Yashin is “an extremely brave person” who “chooses to stay in Russia and speak out against the war.”

He added that he believes Yashin is a symbol of Russian resistance to the war.