Published18 hours ago
One of Russia’s most prominent opposition figures, Ilya Yashin, has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years for spreading “fake news” about the country’s military.
One of few Kremlin critics to stay in Russia after it invaded Ukraine, Yashin continued to speak out against the war.
He was arrested after he condemned suspected Russian war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
Soon after the invasion, Russia made reporting “false information” a crime.
Several Russians have since been given jail terms, but Yashin’s sentence is the longest so far.
He denied the charge, but Judge Oksana Goryunova said he had knowingly disseminated fake information about the Russian armed forces.
Last April, he had spoken on his YouTube channel about the killing of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians by Russia’s occupying forces in Bucha, outside the capital, Kyiv.
He told the court that he had given both the official Russian and Ukrainian versions of the story. During the video, he shared images and stories from the scene by the BBC and others. Russia’s defence ministry has condemned the accusations as a fabricated “provocation” and images of dead civilians as “staged”.
Prosecutors had called for a nine-year jail sentence. His lawyer Maria Eismont said they would appeal against the verdict.
In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Yashin told supporters there was no reason to be sad: “We told the truth about war crimes and called for an end to the bloodshed.”
Russia’s best-known opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, said the “shameless and lawless verdict by Putin’s court will not silence Ilya”, describing him as probably the first friend he had made in politics.
Interviewed by BBC Russian in July, Yashin said his arrest had not come as a surprise, as Russian authorities had made clear that there were only two alternatives for Kremlin opponents: emigration or jail.
Asked whether he could still challenge Russia’s president from prison, he said it was important there were people in the opposition prepared to resist.
Speaking outside the court on Friday, Yashin’s supporters condemned the jail sentence as unfair and a violation of the right to freedom of speech.