News / Europe

Russian Court Jails Putin Opponents on Rioting Charges

FILE - Opposition activists Alexei Gaskarov (L) and Ilya Gushchin (C) stand behind bars in a court room before hearings against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012, during a rally at Bolotnaya Square, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 24, 2014.
FILE - Opposition activists Alexei Gaskarov (L) and Ilya Gushchin (C) stand behind bars in a court room before hearings against opposition activists detained on May 6, 2012, during a rally at Bolotnaya Square, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Reuters

Four Russians detained during a protest against President Vladimir Putin were sentenced to prison terms on Monday after a trial critics say is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent while all eyes are on the Ukraine crisis.

Putin enjoys broad popularity at home, however, and his public standing has ridden a wave of nationalist sentiment to new heights in his Cold War-style standoff with Western powers over Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Judge Natalia Susina ordered Ilya Gushchin jailed for 2 1/2 years and Alexander Margolin and Alexei Gaskarov to 3 1/2 years each on charges of rioting. She found a fourth defendant, Elena Kokhtareva, guilty of the same charge and gave her a more than three-year term, but suspended the sentence.

Last month, a Moscow court sentenced prominent Kremlin critic Sergei Udaltsov to 4 1/2 years in jail after accusing him of coordinating an anti-Putin demonstration on May 6, 2012, the eve of his inauguration for a third Kremlin term.

Udaltsov had been under house arrest since February 2013, as is another prominent Putin foe, blogger Alexei Navalny.

Police detained more than 400 people and dozens of officers were hurt in May 2012 after the rally turned violent.

Claims of exaggerated charges

But the defendants' supporters, some of whom shouted “Freedom!” outside the court house, say the reports of violence was exaggerated by the authorities.

Demonstrators unfurled a banner reading “Putin's Pseudo Justice is the Shame of Russia” from the roof of a building near the court house, but it was torn down minutes later by police.

Known as the “Bolotnaya case”, after the square where the protest occurred, the prosecution of a dozen protesters has come to symbolize what Putin's foes regard as a crackdown to silence dissent while the world is distracted by the Ukraine crisis.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Russian-majority Crimea region in March and the Kyiv government accuses Moscow of stepping up arms supplies to pro-Russian separatists fighting to stave off defeat to a Kyiv offensive in the east, something the Kremlin denies.

Putin is now in his third term as president, following a spell from 2000 to 2008.

Last week one of Russia's oldest non-governmental organizations, Memorial, added the four defendants sentenced on Monday to a list of 45 it describes as political prisoners.

It said the defendants had been carrying out a non-violent exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, had been deprived of a fair trial and faced disproportionate charges.

But with the crisis in Ukraine preoccupying media at home and abroad, the case against them achieved little of the notoriety of the August 2012 Pussy Riot trial, in which members of the punk band were jailed after performing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's main cathedral.

Since starting a new six-year term in 2012, Putin has rushed a series of laws through Russia's parliament that critics say strengthen his hand to muzzle critics. The measures included legislation allowing for tougher punishment for people involved in street demonstrations and tighter controls on bloggers.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More