A Moscow court on Friday sentenced Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin to eight years and six months imprisonment after finding him guilty of spreading “false information” about the Russian army, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
It is unclear if Yashin’s prison sentence includes the time he has already spent in jail during court hearings.
Russian investigators say his statements about the circumstances of the killings in Bucha are a criminal offense under recently introduced legislation, which considers discrediting the Russian armed forces to be illegal.
Yashin slammed the “authors” of the “hysterical verdict” in a post on his official Telegram account.
“The authors of the verdict are optimistic about Putin’s prospects. In my opinion, they are too optimistic,” he said.
“But we also have no reason to be sad, because we have won this trial, friends. The process started as a denunciation of me as “people’s doctor,” but turned into an anti-war tribune. We spoke the truth about war crimes and called for an end to the bloodshed. And in response, they heard a hodgepodge of slogans from the Cold War, which was confusedly voiced by the prosecutor,” Yashin continued.
“With this hysterical verdict, the government wants to intimidate us all, but in fact, it only shows its weakness. Strong leaders are calm and self-confident, and only weaklings seek to shut everyone up, burn out any dissent. So today it only remains for me to repeat what was said on the day of my arrest: I am not afraid, and you should not be,” the post read.
In closing remarks to the court on Monday, ahead of the verdict, Yashin made a statement addressing the judge, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian public. “As if they will sew my mouth shut and I would be forbidden to speak forever. Everyone understands that this is the point,” he said.
“I am isolated from society because they want me to be silent. I promise as long as I’m alive I’ll never will be. My mission is to tell the truth. I will not give up the truth even behind bars. After all, quoting the classic: ‘Lie is the religion of slaves.'”
Yashin, also a close ally of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, came to prominence during protests he helped organize between 2011 and 2012 against Putin’s re-election for a third term.
Yashin remained a fierce Putin critic for years to come, also serving as a municipal deputy in a small Moscow municipality before being barred from running for public office again.
In June, he was sentenced to 15 days behind bars for being disobedient to police, charges he described at the time as part of a pressure campaign by the authorities to force him to leave Russia.
Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, who is on Russia’s wanted list and lives in exile in London, told CNN Yashin was “an extremely brave person” who “chose to remain in Russia and to speak against the war.”
He added he believed Yashin was a symbol of Russian resistance against the war.