Russian student given suspended sentence for protest calls

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow court on Friday handed a suspended sentence to a student vlogger on charges — widely seen as politically motivated — of inciting protests.

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Yegor Zhukov, 21, was arrested in August on accusations of making extremist calls on his YouTube vlog. He is among several dozen people who faced charges for their role in the past summer’s protests in Moscow.

Moscow’s Kuntsevo District Court gave Zhukov a three-year suspended sentence and banned him from administering websites for two years. Prosecutors had asked for a four-year prison sentence.

A series of protests in Moscow were sparked by the authorities’ refusal to register a dozen opposition and independent candidates for September’s city council vote. They attracted crowds of up to 60,000, the largest show of discontent against President Vladimir Putin’s rule in seven years.

The protest was violently dispersed by riot police, with many protesters sustaining injuries. More than 1,300 people were detained on the day of the rally, and later 19 young men faced criminal charges.

Zhukov's case has provoked outrage because it is widely seen as authorities' attempt to intimidate the opposition. His lawyers stressed that he emphatically called for peaceful protests and yet was accused of extremism.

Zhukov, a student of the prestigious Higher School of Economics university, is a popular blogger. His fiery video statements blasting the Kremlin's policies had over 300,000 views during the protests.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters outside the court building, Zhukov thanked them for championing his case.

“It's your victory,” he said.

Zhukov emphasized that he considers himself innocent and described his case as part of the authorities' crackdown on the opposition.

“They have turned the court into the institute of repressions,” he said. "We should fight against it using political methods.”

Yelena Rusakova, a municipal lawmaker who supported Zhukov, described him as a “model citizen.” “He is a law-abiding, responsible person with high moral standards,” she said.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, wouldn't comment on the verdict. He said that the Kremlin is monitoring the public reaction to the trials stemming from Moscow protests, but said the scope of it shouldn't be exaggerated.

“We aren't turning a blind eye to that, but we don't feel inclined to overestimate it,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Several people have been handed prison terms on charges related to the protests.

On Friday, 22-year-old Nikita Chirtsov was given a one-year prison sentence by another court in Moscow on charges of assaulting a police officer.

Yegor Lesnykh, 35, was sentenced to three years in prison, while Maksim Matintsov, 26, received two and a half years. Together with Alexander Mylnikov, 32, who has been handed a two-year suspended sentence Friday, they were arrested in October and charged for assaulting a police officer at a rally on July 27.

All three rejected the charges, arguing the officer in question was beating up a protester who was lying on the ground, and they were merely trying to stop him.

Pavel Novikov, who was also accused of assaulting a policeman, was handed a fine, and Vladimir Yemelyanov, accused of grabbing an officer, received a suspended sentence.

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Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova contributed to this report.