Russia jails activists for up to 18 years after accusing them of belonging to ‘fictitious’ terror group

Critics of the Kremlin say the terror group is fictional 

Rory Sullivan
Monday 10 February 2020 19:51
Jailed activists attend a court hearing in Penza, Russia
Jailed activists attend a court hearing in Penza, Russia

Seven left-wing campaigners have been found guilty of terrorism charges by a Russian court, in what critics have condemned as an attempt to silence opposition.

The men, aged between 23 and 31, were sentenced to jail terms between 6 and 18 years on Monday.

They were accused of plotting attacks for an anarchist group known at Set, meaning Network, against the 2018 football World Cup, which was held in Russia, and the presidential election.

The men, who all denied the accusations, stood trial in the city of Penza, almost 400 miles southeast of Moscow.

Dozens of their supporters chanted “shame” when their sentences were handed down in the military court.

Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International Russia’s researcher, said the terror charges were designed to silence the men, describing them as “a figment of the Russian security services’ imagination.”

Ms Prilutskaya added: “The trial has been a sham – the men say their confessions were extracted by torture and the so-called evidence is contradicted by the facts.”

Elsewhere, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny called the sentences “horrific” and organisation “​fictitious” in a tweet.

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on a conference call that Vladimir Putin knew of the case but would not intervene, as he deemed it inappropriate to do so.

“The president has repeatedly looked into this situation and repeatedly ordered everything to be checked thoroughly to make sure everything is in line with the law,” Mr Peskov added.

The men – Dmitry Pchelintsev, Ilya Shakursky, Andrei Chernov, Maksim Ivankin, Mikhail Kulkov, Vasily Kuksov and Arman Sagynbaev – were also accused of possessing weapons. Three of them were also charged with drug possession.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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