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Ukrainian sentenced to 12 years in Russia over peaceful protest

by Martin Fornusek June 18, 2024 10:41 AM 2 min read
Illustrative purposes only: Barbed lines a wall of a Lefortovo prison wall in Moscow, Russia, on April 4, 2023. (Vlad Karkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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A Russian military court sentenced Ukrainian Krystyna Liubashenko to 12 years in prison for publicly playing a recording of an anti-war speech and a Ukrainian anthem and launching balloons with a Russian opposition flag, Mediazona reported on June 17.

Liubashenko, the 35-year-old mother of two daughters, was sentenced under the charges of "spreading disinformation about the war" and "taking part in a terrorist organization," the Russian independent media outlet wrote.

Russia has widely used the charge of supporting or planning "terrorism" as a means of suppressing any perceived dissent against the regime or prosecuting Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians.

The woman's defense said that she was tricked and blackmailed into coming to Moscow and carrying out the protest.

Liubashenko, her two daughters, her mother, who is suffering from cancer, and her grandfather with dementia fled Kyiv after the outbreak of the full-scale war in 2022 to Switzerland, where they reportedly received asylum.

Facing financial difficulties, Liubashenko met a neighbor who identified himself as Vitalii Yurchenko, purportedly another Ukrainian refugee. The man lent her money to go to Moscow and hold an anti-war protest, namely by letting off balloons with blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, Mediazona wrote.

Only later did Yurchenko insist on playing the anti-war recordings and flying the white-blue-white flag associated with the Russian opposition and with the Freedom of Russia Legion that fights against the Kremlin.

The legion was declared a "terrorist" group by Russia last March, making it possible to imprison people for up to 20 years for involvement with the group.

Liubashenko initially refused the new demands, but Yurchenko threatened that he would report her to the Swiss authorities, who would take her daughters away, the defense said, presenting correspondence as evidence of blackmail.

The woman was detained on May 8, 2023. Her lawyer pointed out how quickly the law enforcement agencies were able to step in and detain her, suggesting the whole protest was a setup designed to entrap her.

The defense asked the court to close the case due to lack of evidence, while the prosecution demanded 15 years in prison.

More than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have been taken captive by Russia since the start of the full-scale war, said Oleksandra Matviychuk, the head of the Center for Civil Liberties, in March.

Russia not interested in all-for-all POW exchange, Ukraine’s ombudsman says
“If the Russians were interested in returning their prisoners of war, we would have done it long ago. It seems that they simply do not need them,” Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on June 15.

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