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Russian dissident Oleg Orlov sentenced to prison

Photo: Alexander Nemenov Agence France-Presse During his last speech before the verdict on Monday, Oleg Orlov once again denounced “the strangulation of freedom” in Russia and “the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine”. “I repent of nothing and regret nothing,” he said.

France Media Agency

February 27, 2024

  • Europe

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced dissident Oleg Orlov, a leading human rights figure, to two and a half years in prison, continuing the relentless repression that has already driven almost all opponents behind bars or to prison. exile.

Veteran of Memorial, the NGO co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and dissolved by Russian justice, this 70-year-old man had made the choice, unlike many other critics of the Kremlin, to stay to Russia to “continue the fight.”

He was convicted for repeated denunciations of the military offensive launched by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine two years ago. An opinion that he reiterated on Monday, before the Moscow court of Golovinski, during his last speech.

As the judgment was read, Mr. Orlov, wearing a sweater and thin glasses, winked at his wife Tatiana Kassatkina and then said: “Tania, you promised me! », seeming to ask him not to cry.

Several dozen of his supporters were present in court to support Mr. Orlov, according to an AFP journalist at the hearing. As he left the room, handcuffed and surrounded by police, he was applauded with shouts of “We love you! »

“We have returned to the Soviet regime, where those who are not on the side of power are accused of lies,” Ian Ratchinski, another human rights defender, told AFP.

Svetlana Gannouchkina, who campaigns for the same cause, regretted a trial which “has nothing to do with the law”. “To be tried for statements calling for peace and criticizing the authorities is absurd. But every tyrant needs enemies,” she blurted.

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“Don’t lose courage”

During his last speech before the verdict on Monday, Mr. Orlov once again denounced “the strangulation of freedom” in Russia and “the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine”.

The day before the verdict, Mr. Orlov once again protested against “the strangulation of freedom” in Russia and “the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine”. “I repent of nothing and regret nothing,” he added.

He also described the death on February 16 of opponent Alexei Navalny in his Arctic prison as “murder” and called on supporters of the Russian opposition to “not lose courage and optimism.”

For his wife, Tatiana Kassatkina, also his colleague at Memorial, “the main thing will be to continue working”. “It is very important to have a voice that can be heard from here […]. We couldn't have lived anywhere else, staying in Russia was our joint decision,” she told AFP after the trial.

US Ambassador Lynne Tracy said Tuesday she was “alarmed” by the conviction of Oleg Orlov, stressing that he has been fighting “for the rights of Russians for more than 45 years” and accusing the Kremlin of “plunging the country back into a period of obscurantism.”

This dissident was “clearly the subject of judicial harassment during his trial,” commented the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calling for “the release of all political prisoners, immediately and unconditionally , notably Vladimir Kara-Mourza, whose state of health is very worrying”. A long-time opponent, this 42-year-old man was sentenced in April 2023 to 25 years in prison for spreading “false information” about the Russian army and is serving his sentence in Siberia.

“We must continue to work and think as we did before, Oleg would definitely not want us to cry,” reacted Sofia, a 22-year-old archivist interviewed by AFP near the court. For Alexeï, a 61-year-old chess coach, who has known the opponent since 1989, “we have lost another important piece in our camp”. “And we will continue to lose as long as this power remains in place.”

“Darkest Forces”

At the end of a first trial, Oleg Orlov was found guilty in October 2023 of having “discredited” the army and sentenced to a small fine, a very lenient judgment in a Russia which has taken the habit of imprisoning critics of power.

This sentence was requested by the prosecution but they then changed their mind and appealed, then a new trial was ordered.

In fact, Oleg Orlov is accused of having demonstrated against the Russian assault in Ukraine and of having signed a vitriolic column against the Russian authorities published in the French media Mediapart.

He accused Russian troops of the “mass” murder of Ukrainian civilians and deplored the “victory” in Russia of the “darkest forces”, those who “dreamed of total revenge” after the dislocation of the USSR in 1991.

Active since the 1970s, Oleg Orlov has become one of the pillars of Memorial, the main organization fighting in Russia to preserve the memory of Soviet repressions and documenting those currently underway.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116