A court in Moscow has handed down a 4-year suspended sentence to the ex-head of Russia's only state-run Ukrainian language library. She was found guilty of stocking extremist Ukrainian books, a claim she denied.
The Meshchansky District Court of Moscow on Monday found Natalya Sharina - who has been under house arrest - guilty of extremism and embezzlement.
"Sharina committed deeds aimed at fomenting ethnic hatred and enmity and humiliating human dignity. Sharina committed embezzlement of public funds for personal gain," Judge Yelena Gudoshnikova said in a statement.
On May 29, the Russian state prosecutor asked the judge to hand down a five-year suspended sentence.
The hate-crime charge stems from the prosecutor's claim that Sharina's library collection included books that are banned in Russia as extremist, including works by Ukrainian ultranationalist Dmytro Korchinskiy.
Sharina's defense was that the book had been planted. She rejected all the allegations as politically motivated.
The charges against her were then expanded to include 25 other "extremist" texts found in her library, including several World War II diaries written by Ukrainian children.
In April 2016, investigators additionally charged her with embezzlement, claiming that she used library funds to pay for her legal defense in a separate extremism case against her that was dismissed in 2013.
Sharina's lawyer said the authorities had "trumped up" new charges after realizing their initial case against his client was too weak.
Russia's Memorial Human Rights Centre says the librarian is a political prisoner and that her arrest is part of the "anti-Ukrainian campaign which has continued since the spring of 2014" and the annexation of Crimea.
A pawn in a bigger game
Sharina was detained in October 2015 during a nadir in Moscow-Kyiv relations after Russia's seizure of Crimea and support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian-Russian relations continue to stumble from one attempt at discrediting the other to the next, as sporadic fighting between Ukraine and Russian separatists continues in the eastern part of Ukraine.
jbh/rc (TASS, Interfax)