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Russian court sentences ex-Pussy Riot spokesman to 8.5 years in jail in absentia

by Nate Ostiller November 3, 2023 4:28 PM 2 min read
Russian activist Pyotr Verzilov in a photo posted on Sept. 3, 2018. (Peter Verzilov/Facebook)
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A Moscow court on Nov. 3 sentenced anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov, a former spokesman for Russia's Pussy Riot punk rock group, to 8.5 years in jail in absentia, Russian independent media outlet Mediazona reported.

Verzilov was convicted on charges of spreading "fake news" about Russia's invasion of Ukraine - a common accusation made by the Russian authorities against people who contradict the official propaganda version.

According to the court statements cited by Mediazona, Verzilov has posted several times on Instagram and Twitter about the massacre in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha in March 2022, when hundreds of civilians were murdered by Russian soldiers.

Verzilov left the country in 2020 after Russian authorities began investigating him and searching his and his family's residences, ostensibly because he had failed to report his Canadian citizenship to the police.

Verzilov, the founder of Mediazona, was also a spokesman for the Pussy Riot punk rock group, whose members were jailed in 2012 in a high-profile political case.

In 2018 Verzilov was poisoned and flown to Germany for treatment, with Pussy Riot accusing the Russian government of orchestrating the poisoning.

The report came amid other assassination attempts on critics of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and murders of some of his critics.

Verzilov, along with Mediazona, were listed as "foreign agents" by the Russian government in 2021.

Russia passed a series of laws in March 2022 that criminalized "discrediting" the Russian army or spreading "unreliable information" about the war in Ukraine.

One year into the war, in March 2023, the restrictions were further tightened, and the potential punishment increased.

If found guilty, the offender could receive a fine of up to 5 million rubles (about $66,450) and a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Ukraine war latest: Russia suffers heavy losses near Vuhledar; US sanctions 200 targets involved in Russian war effort
Key developments on Nov. 2: * Zelensky: Russia suffers heavy losses near Vuhledar * Ukraine destroyed at least 4 Russian surface-to-air missile launchers in one week, UK Defense Ministry reports * U.S. sanctions 200 entities and individuals for participating in the Russian war effort * North Ko…

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