Elderly Russian woman fined for calling Zelensky ‘handsome’

Pensioner fined after saying Ukraine’s president was ‘handsome’ and ‘funny’

Matt Mathers
Thursday 20 April 2023 09:41 BST

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A Russian pensioner who described Ukraine's president as a "handsome young man" has been fined by a court in Moscow.

Olga Slegina was convicted of “discrediting the Russian armed forces” by calling Volodymyr Zelensky a "handsome young man with a good sense of humour", Russia’s human rights group Memorial said.

The 70-year-old was arrested in Nalchik, southern Russia, after making the comment to a waitress in a canteen at the medical centre where she was a guest last Christmas.

The Kremlin introduced sweeping censorship laws shortly after ordering tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago.

Last month Vyacheslav Volodin, a senior government minister, said he was toughening up the legislation to “ensure the security of our country and our citizens”.

In Russia, "discrediting" the army was punishable by up to five years in prison, while spreading knowingly false information about it could attract a 15-year jail sentence.

Mr Volodin introduced amendments to the law which he said would bring in a maximum of 15 years for both offences.

Mr Zelensky enjoyed a successful career as a comedian before entering politics and winning the presidency in 2019. He had performed on Russian state television, including at a New Year’s Eve show in 2013 before Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Ms Sleginam, who also said “everyone used to laugh at his jokes”, was reported to police by three other visitors at the cafe.

According to Memorial, which has been outlawed by the Kremlin, the officer who arrested the pensioner told her: “You have no right to praise him because he is our enemy.”

President Zelensky

Memorial also said Ms Sleginam, who has eyesight problems, was tricked into signing a statement that claimed she had shouted, “Glory to Ukraine”. She denied the allegation.

Ms Sleginam was fined 40,000 roubles (£393) by a court in Moscow.

She is the latest Russia to fall foul of the draconian censorship laws. Last month a man was facing three years behind bars for joking about the war.

Vasily Bolshakov was detained by armed police who raided his home in the Ryazan region, his wife told OVD-Info, a human rights group.

He has been charged with “discrediting” the Russian army after being reported to authorities by a fellow Metro passenger.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent opposition activist, was facing up to 25 years in prison on charges of high treason after speaking out against the war in the United States last March.

More than 20,000 people - including children - have been arrested in Russia for protesting against the war.

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