Ilya Yashin. Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images
- Ilya Yashin was arrested after condemning President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
- Prosecutors argued that Yashin should be kept in prison “because he has caused considerable damage to Russia.”
- His detention was extended until May 10.
A Russian court on Wednesday extended the prison term of Ilya Yashin, who faces 10 years in prison for condemning President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, by six months.
The 39-year-old Moscow city councilor is on trial as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissidents in Russia, with most opposition activists either in prison or in exile.
If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
After Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, Yashin refused to leave the country and regularly took to his YouTube channel, which has 1.3 million subscribers, to denounce the Kremlin attack.
Standing in the defendant’s glass case at Meshchansky district court in Moscow, Yashin smiled and showed a sign of peace at the end of the hearing as some of his supporters applauded.
– “Russian patriot” –
Although Yashin insisted in court that he would not flee the country, the judge extended the prison term by six months.
“I love my country and I am ready to pay with my freedom to live here,” he said.
“I am a Russian patriot,” he said.
Prosecutors argued that Yashin should be detained because he had “caused significant damage to Russia” and “increased political tensions during a special military operation” – Moscow’s statement about the attack on Ukraine.
One of the lawyers of the opposition activist, Vadim Prokhorov, said that the extension of Yashi’s prison term until May 10 is against the law.
Yashin tried to put on a brave face during the audition and looked relaxed.
Dressed in a dark green hoodie and jeans, he smiled at his parents sitting in the front row. He once asked his father if he was watching Tuesday night’s World Cup match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia, and they made each other laugh.
As the hearing ended and the audience left the courtroom, court staff and Yashi’s father apparently got into a scuffle after guards ordered the mother to stop talking to her son.
The men argued for several minutes in the corridor, at one point Yashi’s father was left on the ground. The guards took him to another room for a while without letting him go.
The next trial is expected to be held on November 29.
Yashin is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was killed near the Kremlin in 2015.
– “Shut up people” –
Yashin was arrested while walking in a Moscow park in the summer.
He is accused of spreading “false” information about the Russian military under a law that came into force after Putin launched an operation in Ukraine.
In April, on YouTube, Yashin talked about the “murder of civilians” in Bucha, Kiev, where the Russian army was accused of war crimes.
He called it “massacre”.
His supporters in court said the authorities were using the draconian laws to silence critics of the military campaign in Ukraine.
“This law is completely against the law,” said 48-year-old Anastasia Leonova.
“It’s just there to shut people up.”
His 20-year-old daughter Olga said that their family liked Yashi’s YouTube broadcasts.
“We would gather in the kitchen every Thursday and watch them,” she said. “Me, my mom and my 87-year-old grandmother.”
Independent media outlets in Russia have been closed or suspended since Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine began.
Tens of thousands of Russians, including many independent journalists, left the country.
Another Moscow adviser, Alexei Gorinov, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for condemning the attack on Ukraine in July.
The 61-year-old questioned plans to hold an art competition for children in his constituency at a time when “children are dying every day” in Ukraine.
Almost all of Putin’s prominent political opponents have either fled the country or are in prison.
Navalny, 46, is serving a nine-year prison sentence for embezzlement, which many consider politically motivated. His political organizations were declared illegal.