Russian Court Sentences Leader of Memorial Rights Group to Prison

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Europe|Russian Court Jails Leading Rights Advocate for ‘Discrediting’ Military

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/27/world/europe/russia-memorial-oleg-orlov-prison.html

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Oleg Orlov, 70, a co-chairman of Memorial, which shared the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, was given a two-and-a-half year sentence for speaking out against the war in Ukraine.

Oleg Orlov, center, walks in a corridor while surrounded by several police officers.
Police officers escorted Oleg Orlov, center, on Tuesday after he was taken into custody in a Moscow court.Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

Valerie Hopkins

A Moscow court sentenced the co-chairman of Memorial, the Russian rights group that was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, to two and a half years in prison on Tuesday for “discrediting” Russia’s military by voicing his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Although the Kremlin ordered his group liquidated in late 2021, the co-chairman, Oleg Orlov, 70, chose to stay in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine two years ago and has continued to criticize his government despite a climate of increasing repression.

In November 2022, Mr. Orlov, one of Russia’s most prominent rights campaigners, wrote an article headlined “They Wanted Fascism. They Got it,” in which he blamed President Vladimir V. Putin and the wider Russian public for the “mass murder of the Ukrainian people” and for dealing “a very heavy blow to Russia’s future.”

“The country that left behind communist totalitarianism 30 years ago has slipped back into totalitarianism, only now of the fascist variety,” he wrote in the publication, which was published online in several languages.

Nearly a year later, he was convicted of “repeated discrediting” of Russia’s armed forces. That charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, but he was punished only with a fine of 150,000 rubles, about $1,600, because of mitigating factors including his age and his prominent public profile.

Prosecutors, accusing him of exhibiting “a motive of enmity and hatred toward military personnel,” requested that he be retried and given a three-year prison sentence. A Moscow court reheard the case, resulting in the sentencing on Tuesday.


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