Russia sentences opponent Ilia Yashin to 8.5 years in prison for questioning the official version of the Bucha massacre
By Javier G. Cuesta (Moscow). Russian politician Ilia Yashin has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for having questioned the official Kremlin version of the Bucha massacre. The Moscow court has applied against the dissident the law that the Kremlin approved in March to persecute citizens who discredit the Army. The accusation, having said on its YouTube channel that the Russian advance towards kyiv could have claimed civilian victims.
The court justified its sentence with the fact that “it is clear that Yashin has hatred for Russian state institutions.” The opponent, handcuffed and smiling behind the glass cage that separated him from the rest of the auditorium, made the V for victory, a letter that Russian ultranationalism also appropriated, along with the Z, as a symbol of support for the Army because it uses them such as identifications on their vehicles.
“The authors of the verdict are optimistic about Putin’s prospects. In my opinion, too optimistic ”, the opponent responded defiantly in a message released by his team via Telegram. Yashin has also assured that the changes “are not far away”: “The Government wants to intimidate us all with this hysterical verdict, but in reality it only shows its weakness. Strong leaders are calm and self-assured, only weak ones try to silence everyone and destroy any dissent. So today I only have to repeat what I said the day of my arrest: I am not afraid, and you are not afraid, ”he added.
Yashin has been sentenced under the new Kremlin law that pursues the dissemination of information discrediting the actions of the Russian armed forces in the war. The Government of Vladimir Putin reformed the criminal code with this measure at the beginning of March, just two weeks after starting its offensive on Ukraine. The discovery of the Bucha massacre at the end of March was one of the first episodes in which the law was applied.
The prosecution came to request nine years in prison for Yashin for a video on his YouTube channel where he said, with the evidence collected so far, that it was doubtful that the Ukrainian population had not been victims of the war. “The Russian Defense Ministry website says that Russian soldiers did not kill a single civilian in their advance towards kyiv. Having doubted in public that this statement was correct made me a criminal in the eyes of the Government, ”the opponent denounced a month ago in an interview with EL PAIS from prison.
Yashin is a member of the opposition platform Solidarnost (Solidarity), founded in 2008 by former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, assassinated in 2015 in front of the Kremlin just before publishing a dossier about the participation of the Russian army in the 2014 Donbas war.
Without access to the national parliament, the opposition has taken refuge in local councils to continue doing politics. Yashin was a Moscow district councilor along with Alexei Gorinov, also a veteran of Russian politics, sentenced in July to seven years in prison for refusing to organize a children’s contest on the grounds that children are dying in the war in Ukraine.
One day before Yashin was sentenced, the court that is trying another well-known opponent, Vladimir Kara-Murza, accepted the prosecutor’s request that his case be heard behind closed doors. The politician, poisoned twice in the past, has been accused by the Kremlin of treason for having participated in various conferences in NATO countries.
In the image, from Yuri Kochetkov (Efe/EPA), the Russian opponent Ilia Yashin, shortly before learning of the sentence, in a court in Moscow, this Friday.