A prominent Russian opposition figure was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on Friday after being convicted on charges stemming from his criticism of the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
The sentence handed to Ilya Yashin, one of the few Kremlin critics to have stayed in Russia, offered the latest indication of an intensified crackdown on dissent by Russian authorities.
“With that hysterical sentence, the authorities want to scare us all but it effectively shows their weakness,” Yashin said in a statement through his lawyers after the judge passed the sentence.
“Only the weak want to shut everyone’s mouth and eradicate any dissent.”
Yashin was charged with spreading false information about the military — a new offense added to the country’s criminal law after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine.
The charges against him related to a YouTube livestream video in which he talked about Ukrainians being killed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
During the trial at Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court, Yashin argued that his case has been fabricated and “has all the markings of illegal political persecution.”
He noted that in the video he cited Russian official sources along with Ukrainian statements to give his audience an objective view.
In his final remarks Monday, he said that he considers it his duty to tell the truth. “I will not renounce the truth behind bars,” he said.“When the hostilities began, I didn’t hesitate for a second,” Yashin said.
“I felt I should remain in Russia, loudly tell the truth and try to do all what I could to end the bloodshed.
“It’s better to sit behind bars for a decade and remain an honest person than silently feel shame for the blood spilled by your government.”