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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid