Russian Activist Imprisoned, Says 'I Don't Regret Anything'

Oleg Orlov, 70, of human rights group Memorial is hit with 2.5 years behind bars in Russia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 28, 2024 6:17 AM CST
For 'Discrediting' Russia During War, Activist Gets Prison
Oleg Orlov speaks to journalists prior to a court session in Moscow on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A veteran human rights campaigner who criticized the war in Ukraine was convicted Tuesday by a Moscow court of "repeatedly discrediting" the Russian military and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. Oleg Orlov, 70, co-chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Memorial, had rejected the case against him as politically motivated, saying in his closing statement: "I don't regret anything and I don't repent anything." He also denounced the war again, reports the AP. Orlov was handcuffed and taken into custody after the verdict, concluding a retrial of one in which he earlier was convicted and fined.

Underscoring the low tolerance for criticism of the war by the government of President Vladimir Putin, the prosecution had appealed, seeking a harsher punishment. The prosecution claimed that Orlov was motivated to write an anti-war article by hostility toward "traditional Russian spiritual, moral, and patriotic values" and hatred of the military, per the independent Russian news outlet Mediazona. In a statement, Memorial called Orlov's sentence "an attempt to drown out the voice of the human rights movement in Russia and any criticism of the state." It vowed to continue its work. The verdict drew a crowd of dozens of supporters, including 18 Western diplomats, Mediazona reported.

"I am alarmed and concerned by today's outcome," US Ambassador Lynne Tracy said in a statement. "Oleg Orlov has personally fought for the rights of Russians for more than 45 years. In previous times, his efforts have been awarded at the highest levels. In today's Russia he is being locked away for them." In October 2023, a Moscow court had convicted Orlov and fined him about $1,500, a significantly milder punishment when compared to the long prison terms others have received for criticizing the war. Both the defense and the prosecution appealed, and a higher court voided the fine, sending the case back to the prosecutors. The new trial began earlier this month, another step in an unrelenting crackdown on dissent that the Kremlin ratcheted up after sending troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

(More activists stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.