MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Moscow court ordered opposition politician Ilya Yashin be kept in jail for two months pending an investigation into the spreading of “fake information” about Russia’s army, a charge carrying a jail term of up to 15 years.
“Russia will be free!” Yashin shouted in court after the judge agreed with state prosecutors’ request to keep him in prison until Sept. 12.
Russia passed new legislation after sending its army into Ukraine on Feb. 24 that prohibits public statements which “discredit” its armed forces or cite information from non-official sources. The measure was criticised by the West as a further crackdown on free speech.
A Moscow city councillor was jailed for seven years last week in one of the first cases using the new law.
Days before he was first detained, Yashin, an ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and member of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district council, had vowed to stay in Russia despite the looming threat of arrest for his outspoken criticism of President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Navalny, who is able to post on Twitter through his lawyers and allies, tweeted: “I demand the immediate release of Ilya Yashin” and said he had spoken the truth about what was going on in Ukraine.
Yashin’s lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said the charges related to a video Yashin posted on his YouTube channel in which he spoke about Russia’s actions in Bucha, near Kyiv. Russia has denied carrying out atrocities there and in other areas its forces have seized.
Yashin was jailed for 15 days in late June for disobeying a police officer – a move that he said was linked to his activism. He had been due to leave jail on Wednesday, before he was hit with the new charges.
Since the start of the conflict, Russia has moved to quash almost all forms of dissent, with most of its opposition figures either in jail or exile.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Philippa Fletcher)