A Russian court on Wednesday began the trial of opposition politician Ilya Yashin who faces up to a decade in prison for denouncing President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
The trial against Yashin, a 39-year-old Moscow city councilor, comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissenting voices in Russia, with most opposition activists either in jail or out of the country.
Yashin refused to leave after Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
He is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.
Standing in a defendant’s cage in Moscow’s Meshchansky district court on Wednesday, Yashin sought to put on a brave face, laughing, doing thumbs up and stretching, an AFP correspondent said.
Wearing a dark green hoody and jeans, he was also seen smiling to his parents in the front row.
Yashin was detained this past summer while strolling through a park in the Russian capital.
He faces up to 10 years behind bars, accused of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army under legislation introduced after Putin launched the attack on Ukraine.
The reason for Yashin’s probe was an April YouTube stream in which Yashin spoke about the “murder of civilians” in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha where the Russian army has been accused of war crimes.
He called it a “massacre.”
While in detention, Yashin has not minced his words about Russia’s tactics in Ukraine.
In a speech in court earlier this month, he accused Russia’s judges of acting as “political servants of the Kremlin.”
Another Moscow councilor, Alexei Gorinov, was in July sentenced to seven years in prison for denouncing the Ukraine offensive.
The 61-year-old had questioned plans for an art competition for children in his constituency while “every day children are dying” in Ukraine.
Almost all of Putin’s well-known political opponents have either fled the country or are in jail.
Navalny, 46, is currently serving a nine-year jail term on embezzlement charges widely seen as political.
Moscow has stepped up efforts to stamp out dissent since Putin sent troops into Ukraine.
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