Russian Court Bans Politically Active Student From Managing Websites

Russian Court Bans Politically Active Student From Managing Websites

MOSCOW — In a highly publicized case, a Russian court on Friday gave a political science student a three-year suspended sentence and banned him from managing websites for two years for publishing videos in which he criticized the government of President Vladimir V. Putin.

Since his arrest at the beginning of August, Yegor Zhukov, 21, a student at Moscow’s prestigious Higher School of Economics, has become a symbol of a wave of anti-Kremlin protests that rocked the Russian capital last summer. His videos called upon viewers to use all possible means to depose Mr. Putin, whom he called a “dictator and a tyrant.”

Outside the court in Moscow, a crowd of about 300 people, mostly students, chanted “We are Yegor Zhukov” after the verdict.

Many prominent public figures, as well as faculty members and students, have called for Mr. Zhukov’s release. One of Russia’s most popular rappers, Miron Fyodorov, known as Oxxxymiron, frequented court hearings and offered to pay $31,000 to bail Mr. Zhukov out. The judge rejected the offer.

Mr. Zhukov was arrested shortly after Russian authorities detained more than 1,300 people at one of the biggest unsanctioned rallies in years. The protest was sparked by a decision by electoral authorities to bar several opposition candidates from running for Moscow’s City Council.

Mr. Zhukov, who published a video about the protest, was initially accused of taking part in the demonstration and of directing mass riots, in a case that included other protesters. The case was later closed because of a lack of evidence that any riots actually took place.

Russian investigators did not stop there, however. They quickly accused Mr. Zhukov of inciting extremism and calling to depose the government by violent means in some of the videos he published on his YouTube channel. In September, Mr. Zhukov was released under house arrest. Russia’s financial monitoring agency included Mr. Zhukov in its list of terrorists and extremists, blocking his bank accounts.

Mr. Zhukov pleaded not guilty, saying that even though he considers many members of Russia’s current political elite as his opponents, he has never called for use of violence.

During Mr. Zhukov’s hearing, Aleksandr Korshikov, a court-appointed linguistics expert, said that in his videos, Mr. Zhukov created a negative image of the Russian government by calling it “a Kremlin scum.” The expert, an employee of Russia’s main security service, the F.S.B., also said that Mr. Zhukov called for all forms of protests, which might include violent ones.

In his court testimony, Mr. Zhukov said that on the contrary, he was calling for strictly nonviolent protests.

“My motives have now become clear,” Mr. Zhukov said in his closing statement on Wednesday. “I want to see these two qualities in my compatriots: accountability and love,” he said in a speech that has been widely shared online in Russia. “Accountability for ourselves, for those near us, for the entire country,” Mr. Zhukov said. “This desire, your honor, is another reason why I couldn’t have called for violence.”

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