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Russia jails blogger over posts on atrocities in Ukraine

March 7, 2023

A Moscow court has sentenced Dmitry Ivanov, the founder of an anti-war Telegram channel, to more than eight years in prison. The former student was found guilty of posting details of Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

A judge's gavel with Russian writing
The Russian court sentenced the blogger to eight-and-a-half in a penal colony over his postsImage: Moscow City Court Press Office/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The Timiryazevsky District Court in Moscow on Tuesday sentenced the creator of the Protest MGU telegram channel, Dmitry Ivanov, to eight-and-a-half years in a penal colony.

Russia introduced sweeping wartime censorship laws shortly after launching its invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago. The legislation has since been used to silence dissenting voices across society.

Why was Ivanov in court?

The 23-year-old was tried under a section of law about "military fakes" for posts about Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities.

The former mathematics student faced prosecution over 11 posts that dealt with, among other things, the events of March last year in Bucha, where Russian troops are alleged to have committed war crimes and mass graves were found.

His posts also reported Russia's shelling of the port city of Mariupol and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The accusation was based on contrasting the words of Ivanov and the statements of numerous top officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya. While they were summoned to appear in court, none of them actually did.

Amnesty International's Russia researcher Oleg Kozlovsky posted a picture of Ivanov in court.

During the trial, other witnesses for the prosecution called Ivanov, who was detained in June last year, an "anti-Russian fascist."

Ivanov pleaded not guilty and maintained that the information in his posts was accurate.

"Literally the entire indictment, from the first to the last word, is contrary to reality. I subscribe to every word that I wrote a year ago," the online news site Mediazona reported him telling the court last week.

Judge Daria Pugacheva sentenced Ivanov to a term just six months shy of the prosecution request of nine years and banned him from being an administrator of internet and social media sites for four years after release.

Those found guilty of discrediting" the army can currently be punished by up to five years in prison, while there can be a tariff of up to 15 years for deliberately spreading "false" information.

"You must understand that Russia is not Putin. Tens of millions of Russians are against this criminal war," Ivanov was cited as telling foreign journalists by Mediazona on Tuesday.

"This is a dark moment in our history, but it has always been like this before dawn," added Ivanov.

rc/sms (Reuters, AFP)