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Russia sentences lawmaker to 7 years in prison for denouncing war

July 8, 2022 Updated Fri., July 8, 2022 at 8:56 p.m.

An activist holds a placard reading "No Moscow infection in Ukraine!" during a protest action near the Ukrainian Constitutional Court building in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 16, 2019.  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
An activist holds a placard reading "No Moscow infection in Ukraine!" during a protest action near the Ukrainian Constitutional Court building in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 16, 2019. (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Ivan Nechepurenko and Alina Lobzina New York Times

A court in Moscow on Friday sentenced an opposition lawmaker to seven years in prison for denouncing Russia’s war in Ukraine, handing down the first prison term for what the government made a crime shortly after the invasion.

The sentence is likely to have a chilling effect on Russian society by further raising the stakes for anyone who publicly opposes the war that President Vladimir Putin began in late February. While thousands of people protested across Russia in the first weeks of the conflict, the dissent was quickly suppressed amid police violence and the passage of draconian laws that limited free speech.

The opposition lawmaker, Alexei Gorinov, a municipal deputy in Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district, was found guilty of spreading false information about the Russian army and its activities, the Tverskoy Court said in a statement Friday. It said Gorinov had conspired with others and had used his public office to commit that crime.

Russian authorities have opened dozens of cases similar to Gorinov’s since the government made denouncing the war a crime, but Gorinov was the first to receive a substantial prison term for it. Others have been penalized with suspended sentences or fines.

“Alexei was the first who didn’t plead guilty – that’s why the sentence was so harsh,” said his lawyer, Katerina Tertukhina, who added that she planned to appeal the sentence.

Yelena Kotyonochkina, another deputy in the district, was accused of the same crime. His lawyer said that she had fled Russia.

In March, at a regular session of his district council, Gorinov expressed opposition to holding a drawing contest and dance classes for children, saying that the war in Ukraine made such events inappropriate.

“Our country is waging an aggression,” Gorinov said in remarks that were captured in a video from the council’s meeting and uploaded to its YouTube channel. “My opinion is that all of civil society’s efforts must be aimed at stopping the war and withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine’s territory.”

During the session, Kotyonochkina called Russia “a fascist state.”

Gorinov was arrested at the end of April and has been in custody since. During the court hearing Friday, he held a white sheet of paper on which was written, “Do you still need this war?”

Addressing the court a day earlier, Gorinov said that Russia had been “waging a war on the territory of its neighborly state, shamefully calling it ‘a special military operation.’ ”

“They promise us victory and glory,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published by his supporters. “Why do a significant part of my fellow citizens feel shame and guilt?”

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