Russia wants to jail opposition activist, anti-war official

Jul 7, 2022, 3:31 AM | Updated: 3:40 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to winners of the Leaders of Russia Competition, the flagsh...

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to winners of the Leaders of Russia Competition, the flagship project of the Russia - Land of Opportunity presidential platform in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian prosecutors on Thursday called for prison sentences for a prominent opposition activist and for a Moscow city council member who opposes the invasion of Ukraine, in a sign the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent continues to gather pace.

Prosecutors asked that Andrei Pivovarov, former head of the Open Russia organization, be given a five-year sentence for “directing an undesirable organization,” a criminal offense under a 2015 law, according to his lawyer, Sergei Badamshin.

Pivovarov rejected the charges and pointed out during the court hearing that the criminal case was opened two days after Open Russia shut down. The group disbanded in an attempt to shield members from prosecution after it was designated an “undesirable” organization.

Pivovarov was pulled off a Warsaw-bound plane at St. Petersburg’s airport just before takeoff in May 2021. He was taken to the southern city of Krasnodar, where he was accused of supporting a local candidate on behalf of an “undesirable” organization. The criminal charge is based on a his social media posts supporting independent candidates in Krasnodar’s municipal elections.

Badamshin, the lawyer, said prosecutors also requested that his client be barred from holding office for eight years.

Also on Thursday, a Russian prosecutor asked for a seven-year sentence for a Moscow city council member who spoke up against Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Alexei Gorinov, who was detained in April, is the first Russian elected representative to face prison for spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian army, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Gorinov criticized Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine at a city council meeting in March, a recording of which is now available on YouTube. The video shows him voicing skepticism over a planned children’s art competition in his constituency while “every day children are dying” in Ukraine.

At a court hearing last month, Gorinov was photographed holding up a sign saying “I am against the war” as he sat in the defendant’s cage.

Moscow effectively outlawed independent discussion of its Ukraine operation, including all references to it as a “war” or “invasion,” weeks after its troops rolled into Ukraine.

In another development Thursday, Russia issued an arrest warrant for Ilya Krasilshchik, an outspoken tech executive and former publisher of a leading independent Russian news site, Meduza.

Russian media have linked the charges against Krasilshchik, who left Russia in early March, to an Instagram post in which he voiced shock and outrage over the mass executions of civilians in Kyiv suburbs that were occupied by Russian troops in early spring.

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Russia wants to jail opposition activist, anti-war official