Defiant Russians broke into raucous applause inside a Moscow courtroom to show their support for an anti-war protester who was sentenced to seven years in prison for daring to speak out against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a cellphone video that was circulating on social media Friday, courtroom spectators are shown cheering on 60-year-old Alexei Gorinov, who is seen inside a glass enclosure holding up a sign written in Russian that reads: “Do you still need this war ? ”
A bailiff attempted to block the closet from view, before ejecting everyone from the courtroom for “disturbing the peace.”
Gorinov, a Moscow district councilor and lawyer, became the first person in Russia to be sentenced to prison under a new law on “fake information.”
Gorinov told a Krasnoselsky district council meeting on March 15, where a children’s drawing contest was discussed, that Russia was waging a war of aggression against Ukraine.
“What kind of children’s drawing contest can we talk about for Children’s Day… when we have children dying every day?” he says in a recording of the meeting posted on YouTube.
“I believe all efforts of [Russian] civil society should be aimed only at stopping the war and withdrawing Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine. ”
Gorinov was arrested under Article 207.3 of the criminal code, passed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 to outlaw “deliberate dissemination of false information about Russia’s army,” defined as information deviating from official reports.
“They took away my spring, they took away my summer, and now they’ve taken away seven more years of my life,” Gorinov’s supporters quoted him as saying at Friday’s sentencing hearing.
Unbowed by the harsh sentence, Gorinov doubled down on calling for an end to the war – and warned of a return to a repressive Stalinist regime in Russia.
In his closing remarks, the activist said: “War, whatever synonym you call it, is the last, dirtiest, vile thing, unworthy of the title of a man.”
He said: “I thought that Russia had exhausted its limits on wars back in the 20th century. However, our present is Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel. Do these names mean something to you?
“You, the accusers – take an interest and don’t say later that you didn’t know anything.”
The anti-Kremlin activist told the court: “I am convinced of this: war is the fastest means of dehumanization, when the line between good and evil is blurred. War is always violence and blood, torn bodies and severed limbs. It is always death. I don’t accept it and reject it. ”
In his courtroom speech Gorinov mocked Putin, declaring: “For five months, Russia has been conducting hostilities on the territory of a neighboring state, misleadingly calling it a ‘special military operation.’ We are promised victory and glory.
“Why, then, do so many of my fellow citizens feel shame and guilt? Why did many people leave Russia and continue to leave? And why did our country suddenly have so many enemies? ”
He argued that he had a constitutional right to voice his opinion.
“During the years of Stalinist terror, my grandfather was accused of calling for the overthrow of the Soviet system, in the creation and strengthening of which he participated in the most direct way,” Gorinov said.
He said his grandfather lived to be rehabilitated in society half a century later.
“I hope my recovery will take much less time,” he said. “But for now, I’m here in the courtroom.”
Gorinov said he had manned the barricades when the Soviet Union fell, supporting democracy.
“If they had said then that in 30 years I would have tried by a criminal court for my words, for my opinion, I would not have believed it,” he said.
“In the meantime, I wish prudence to our government,” he said. “I wish wisdom to the judges. I wish steadfastness to all who are subjected to a new wave of repressions, as well as to the entire Ukrainian people.
“For myself I wish one day to become a future Russian Ambassador to Ukraine.”
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Gorinov’s wife of 32 years explained that her husband was “not the type of person” to keep quiet, reported the independent outlet SOTA Vision TV.
“And to leave the country is somewhat craven… that’s it we’re staying with you,” she said.
Gorinov’s attorney said she planned to appeal the verdict and take the case all the way to Russia’s Constitutional Court to challenge the “fake information” law.
Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said the sentence was meant to make an example of Gorinov and others who have been using the word “war” to refer to the invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin calls a special military operation. ”
Many people have been handed administrative fines for protesting against the war, but lawyer Pavel Chikov said on Telegram that only two others had been convicted of criminal offenses under Russian’s draconian “fake news” law, and that one had been fined and the other given a suspended jail sentence.
With Post Wires