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Russian ex-mayor fined for discrediting army but avoids prison

MOSCOW (AP) — The dissident former mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city has avoided prison despite being found guilty on Friday in a trial over his criticism of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Roizman, 60, a sharp critic of the Kremlin, is one of the most visible and charismatic opposition figures in Russia. He enjoyed broad popularity while serving as mayor of Yekaterinburg, a city of 1.5 million people in the Ural Mountains.

Roizman, who was mayor from 2013 to 2018, was arrested last August on charges of discrediting the Russian military, under a new law adopted after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022. State prosecutors at the time singled out a video broadcast Roizman made in July 2022 in which he criticized Russia’s intervention.

Earlier last year, Russian courts repeatedly fined Roizman on similar charges in an administrative court. Under the law, repeat offenses can be tried in a criminal court.

While the charge of discrediting the Russian military could carry a prison sentence, a Yekaterinburg court on Friday instead fined Roizman 260,000 rubles ($3250), in line with a request made the day before by the prosecution.

Roizman has repeatedly denied guilt, and his lawyers Thursday called for him to be cleared of all charges.

Despite this, the-ex mayor told reporters Friday that he didn’t plan to appeal the verdict, which he described as “an acquittal in the current conditions.”

Russian courts have regularly handed out fines and, occasionally, prison terms for public criticism of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

A top opposition figure, Vladimir Kara-Murza, was convicted last month of treason and sentenced to 25 years in jail over public speeches against the military operation. Human rights organizations and Western governments denounced the verdict and demanded Kara-Murza’s release. Amnesty International declared the 41-year-old to be a prisoner of conscience.

Another prominent Kremlin critic, Ilya Yashin, was sentenced last year to eight and a half years in prison on charges of spreading false information about the military.

In March, a Russian court also convicted a father over social media posts critical of the military operation and sentenced him to two years in prison. His 13-year-old daughter, who drew a sketch at school expressing distress over Moscow’s actions, was sent to an orphanage before being taken to live with her estranged mother.

The Associated Press