A Moscow court sentenced Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin on Friday to eight years and six months in prison, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti, in a blow to what is left of the country’s opposition.
It is unclear whether Yashin’s jail term for spreading “false information” about the Russian military includes time he has already spent in jail during court hearings.
Russian investigators say his statements about the circumstances of the Bucha killings are a criminal offense under recently introduced legislation, which makes it illegal to discredit the Russian armed forces.
Yashin criticized 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 don’t have to be sad either, because we have won this trial, friends. The process began as a denunciation of me as a “people’s doctor”, but it became a forum against the war. We spoke the truth about war crimes and called for an end to the bloodshed. And in response, they heard a hodgepodge of Cold War slogans, which the prosecutor garbled,” Yashin continued.
“With this hysterical verdict, the government wants to intimidate us all, but in reality it only shows its weakness. Strong leaders are calm and self-confident, and only the weak seek to silence everyone, burn out any dissent. So today I only have to repeat what was said the day of my arrest: I am not afraid, and you should not be, “the publication said.
In closing remarks to the court on Monday before the verdict, Yashin made a statement to the judge, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian public. “As if they sewed my mouth shut and forbade me to speak forever. Everyone understands that that is the point, ”he said.
“I am isolated from society because they want me to be silent. I promise you that as long as I live I will never be. My mission is to tell the truth. I won’t give up the truth even behind bars. After all, quoting the classic: ‘The lie is the religion of slaves’”.
Yashin, also a close ally of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, rose to prominence during protests he helped organize in 2011 and 2012 against Putin’s re-election to a third term.
Yashin remained a fierce critic of Putin for the next few years, also serving as a municipal deputy in a small Moscow municipality before he was barred from running for public office again.
In June, he was sentenced to 15 days behind bars for disobeying the police, charges he described at the time as 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 that several Western officials and Navalny himself openly blamed on the Kremlin. Russia has denied any involvement.
After a five-month stay in Germany recovering from Novichok poisoning, Navalny returned to Moscow last year, where he was promptly arrested for violating the terms of a probation imposed in a 2014 case. Earlier this year, Navalny he was sentenced to nine years in prison on fraud charges that he said were politically motivated.
Navalny criticized Yashin’s jailing on Friday. “Another shameless and lawless verdict by Putin will not silence Ilya and should not intimidate the honest people of Russia,” he said in a statement posted on his social media accounts.
“This is another reason why we must fight, and I have no doubt that in the end we will win.”
Navalny said in the statement that Yashin was his “first friend” that he made in politics and that he had known him since he was 18 years old. “Knowing Yashin for so long, I won’t even try to write something like: ‘Wait, Ilya’.” And so I know that he did everything right and will put up with everything, ”he said.
Navalny concluded by saying that he is proud of Yashin and that he and Russia will be free.
Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, who is on Russia’s wanted list and living in exile in London, told CNN that Yashin was “an extremely brave person” who “decided to stay in Russia and speak out against the war.” .
He added that he believed Yashin was a symbol of the Russian resistance against the war.