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Russia Jails Renowned Rights Activist Oleg Orlov for Ukraine War Criticism

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A Moscow court sentenced human rights activist Oleg Orlov to two and a half years in prison for denouncing the war in Ukraine.

Orlov, 70, was accused by prosecutors for “discrediting” the Russian army in an op-ed for French media where he said that “mass murder” was taking place in Ukraine. “Who is to blame for Russia going fascist? The simplest answer is Putin. He is to blame, of course,” he wrote.   

Russia passed new censorship laws following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine that made “discrediting” Russia’s Military a criminal offense. 

Orlov is most known for his work as the co-chair of Memorial, which was set up in 1989 to document human rights abuses during the Soviet era. In October 2022, Memorial was one of three laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Russian prosecutors claimed that Orlov’s article had “a motive of enmity and hatred toward Military personnel.” Orlov told the court in his closing statement that he rejected the charges against him. “I don’t regret anything and I don’t repent anything,” he said. 

“Today’s sentencing of Orlov is the result of a sham trial enacted by the Russian authorities to punish a prominent state critic and instill fear among those who dare to speak up against the war in Ukraine,” Amnesty International said in a statement. 

Russian authorities have cracked down on dissent since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since 2022, tens of thousands of people have been penalized by authorities for expressing anti-war views.

Earlier this month, Alexei Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader who was jailed in 2021, died in a Russian penal colony in the Arctic circle. U.S. President Joe Biden said that the exact cause of his death is unknown, “but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did.”

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