Several Russian activists who took part in opposition rallies in Moscow over the summer have been sentenced to multiple years in jail.
Thousands took to the streets of the Russian capital every weekend this summer calling for free and fair elections after the electoral commission banned opposition and independent candidates from running in the September 8 city council election.
Some of the rallies were deemed illegal by the authorities and more than a thousand protesters were arrested including some prominent opposition figures such as Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and activist Lyubol Sobol.
The investigation for violence against police linked to the rallies have been dubbed the "Moscow case" and sentencing has now started in earnest with the independent OVD-info monitoring group reporting on them.
On Wednesday, Kirill Zhukov was found guilty of using violence against a police officer during the July 27 protest. Zhukov denied the charges but footage showed him pulling on the straps of a police officer's helmet. He was sentenced to three years in jail.
Yevgeny Kovalenko was also sentenced to three and a half years in jail for allegedly throwing a rubbish bin in the direction of law enforcement.
Yegor Zhukov, a 21-year-old student and rising media star — his Youtube channel, Blog Zhukova, has 142,000 subscribers — was also handed out a three-year prison sentence on Wednesday after being charged with "taking part in mass disturbances" last month.
The vlogger, who tried to register as an independent candidate for the Moscow's city council's election scheduled to be held on September 8, had been critical of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his videos. He was also found guilty of calling for extremists actions online.
In an open letter published by the Moscow Times on Tuesday, he related his arrest on August 2 — "the longest day of (his) life" — and said he was denied the right to call a lawyer while investigators searched his apartment and "until I signed a paper."
"The Russian government is, in itself, the most effective opposition force. In trying to intimidate society, it only angers people even more. Attempting to crush the protest movement with trumped-up charges, it only inflames greater protest. Trying to restrict my freedom by putting me in prison, the authorities have only prepared me for the time when they are no longer in power," he added.
- Fellow blogger Vladislav Sinitsa, 30, was meanwhile sentenced to five years in jail on Tuesday for inciting violence against police officer's children. Investigators accused him of posting a tweet under a pseudonym in which he said protesters could use facial recognition data to identify officers, kidnap their children and send them snuff videos — footage of murder.
- Ivan Podkopaev and Danila Beglets were also sentenced on Tuesday to three years and two years in jail respectively. The ruling said Podkopaev sprayed pepper gas towards law enforcement while Beglets was guilty of violence towards officers for attempting to pull his hand away from an officer trying to detain him.