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Hard Labor for Woman Who Reposted Online Criticism of Russia's Actions in Ukraine

Yekaterina Vologzheninova, speaking in court on the day of her verdict, February 20, 2016. Screencap courtesy of Grani.ru.

Yekaterina Vologzheninova, speaking in court on the day of her verdict, February 20, 2016. Screencap courtesy of Grani.ru.

A Russian district court has sentenced Ekaterina Vologzheninova, a single mother from Yekaterinburg, to 320 hours of labor for reposting materials critical of Russian aggression in Ukraine on social media. This is the latest of a string of prosecutions of Internet users in Russia who have been critical of Russian actions in Ukraine on social networks.

A court in Yekaterinburg has found 46-year-old Yekaterina Vologzheninova guilty of “discrediting the political order” and of “inciting enmity” by reposting or liking material critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Donbas on Russian social network VKontakte. According to Russian news website Grani.ru, the judge also ordered Vologzheninova’s laptop to be destroyed.

Vologzheninova was first approached by law enforcement in December 2014, when officials from the Russian Investigative Committee searched her apartment and confiscated her laptop and other devices. She was later questioned and charged with “inciting hatred and violence” by means of her online posts and reposts, with officials citing Article 282 of the Russian criminal code.

The content that the Investigative Committee took issue with includes Vologzheninova's VKontakte posts that contain links to material about recent political events in Ukraine, including the Euromaidan protests and their aftermath. She also reposted several poems and posts where Russians are generally described as “permanent slaves in body and soul.” The prosecutors specifically accused Vologzheninova of sharing links to documentaries and TV programs about events in Ukraine, including “The Winter That Changed Us” and the TV show “Brave Hearts,” noting that the materials she reposted “incited hatred and enmity towards representatives of Russian authorities and towards Russian volunteers who fought on the side of the militia in eastern Ukraine.”

Vologzheninova’s lawyer Roman Kachanov has stressed that his client simply reposted materials published by others on the Internet without making any changes to them or commenting on them. Vologzheninova herself told Open Russia in January 2015 that she didn't think the content she reposted contained any incitement to “national hatred or calls to extremism” and that she was only “interested in a point of view alternative to that which the Russian federal channels are showing.” The court's “psycho-linguistic expert analysis,” however, led the judge to side with the prosecution.

Writing for independent opposition website kasparov.ru, commentator Kseniya Kirillova says Vologzheninova's sentence was likely only limited to 320 hours of hard community labor instead of prison time because of her single-mother status and a broad public awareness campaign. Community labor usually encompasses some form of physical work (e.g., cleaning the streets) for agencies in the sentencing jurisdiction as a substitution of other judicial sanctions, such as incarceration.

Kirillova's commentary on the case underscores its many procedural violations, such as arbitrary use of linguistic analysis (performed by a single Federal Security Services expert and based on a handful of images and posts), the faking of the defendant's signature under her interrogation protocol (according to the defendant herself), and the refusal of several of the witnesses in the case to stand by their initial testimonies.

Kirillova also notes that the indictment in the case reveals quite a lot about the ideology behind the latest string of prosecutions brought against online critics in Russia. Accusing Vologzheninova of negative and “emotionally charged” statements about “the Russian authorities, the political course of modern Russia, the Russian president as the state's top figure and the embodiment of power in Russia” essentially means that criticism of authorities in Russia is now officially a criminal act, Kirillova writes. “Dialogue or exchange of opinions” are also considered a crime, especially if those engaging in the exchange show their emotions, Kirillova notes, quoting directly from the text of the indictment.

In December 2015, 35-year-old Vadim Tyumentsev, a Russian blogger from the Siberian city of Tomsk, was convicted of hate speech and calls to extremism online and handed a five-year prison sentence for publishing videos with calls to peaceful protest and critical comments about Russian military involvement in Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists. Tyumentsev, who had spent most of 2015 in detention, was declared a political prisoner by the Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre in November 2015.

Also in December 2015, a court in Krasnodar found Russian activist Darya Polyudova guilty of “public calls to separatism and extremism” on social media (including posts and reposts of content on social networks) and sentenced her to two years in a penal colony.

  • “permanent slaves in body and soul” and the like about a given ethnic group would qualify as hate speech in Canada and win you a stiff prison sentence. Same deal for much of the EU. Russian sentencing here is in line with international norms, if not American ones.

    • TommyBazar

      Bullshit. A poem would never get you a prison sentence in Europe or Canada or the US, unless it was explicitly calling for violence or limiting freedom of others.
      This was about persecuting a person with a world view not shared by the authorities and that happens only in authoritarian countries like Russia. In the US, Canada, Europe you are completely free to disagree with whatever the government does and you are free to convince others in that. Russia is a dictatorship and that’s why it can’t stand anyone who doesn’t support the official (read “fabricated”) world view.

      • You’re right. In Canada you’d only lose your job and be fined $5000 or $7500 . Under Canadian civil law, you might even end up hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

        On the other hand in Austria you’d be in jail for two years as Same situation in Denmark. In France you could be €60,000 or jailed for two months or ten years.

        You might be sent to jail for 8 or 12 years in the United States.

        Your Russophobia is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

        • TommyBazar

          Good thing it isn’t printed on paper than. Your russophilia, on the other hand, is striking and probably well paid as well, have a good work-day at your troll-center.
          By the way, your links do not support your claim. Even though you try to mask them as relevant, they are a world apart from this case.

          • Sergey Tokarev

            Why Alec’s links are irrelevant? Please enlighten me. What for this case – she is free to appeal to ECHR. (Lipspalm) #ProbablyPutinKilledArchimedes ‘Who knows? Probably’ as British judge would write in a verdict 104 times.

        • Joel Hummel

          where do you get your facts from? In the U.S. this wouldn’t even be a crime. What is this B.S. you spout about being sent to jail for 8 to 12 years in the United States. I take it you aren’t even a U.S. citizen, nor even been to the U.S. Idiot!

          • I cited sources and specific incidents. Refute them at your leisure Joel.

            Thank the heavens, I’m not an American citizen. Heck Americans don’t even enjoy the benefits of dual taxation treaties. More like sharecroppers, than citizens.

          • Joel Hummel

            Alec, the specific case of Emerson Winfield Begolly to which you are obliquely referring, he was accused of actively posting online materials on how to build bombs and providing instructions for when and where to commit acts of terror, and for allegedly pulling a weapon when approached by FBI agents. For this he got 8 1/2 years. Hardly comparable to a Russian lady retweeting a poem.

            Nice hopover Alec, going from state-sponsored oppression of it citizens’ right to free speech – to dual taxation treaties…. Short attention span, Alec? People who lose one argument often feel they have to divert attention from one issue by hoping over to a different issue altogether – that’s a logical fallacy!

            And, since you are NOT a U.S. citizen and enjoy no such specific knowledge, you would not realize that the U.S. tax code doesn’t require a dual taxation treaty with ANY nation because exemptions for foreign income are already built-in. Anything up to a certain level is automatically excluded. Just need to file the correct form with the IRS, Alec…

          • Sergey Tokarev

            ‘state-sponsored oppression of it citizens’ right to free speech’ – where do you see oppression of right to free speech? I see one single case of a person encouraging genocide – and encouraging genocide is a crime – got administrative punishment, kind of spanking on her butt. Regards.

          • Joel Hummel

            Hey, Sergey, how are you? I don’t follow. I wasn’t speaking of right to free speech. You are perhaps citing the wrong comment? I wasn’t the one who mentioned “state-sponsored oppression of it citizens’ right to free speech’
            Regards, Joel

          • Sergey Tokarev

            I am fine, thank you. I looked at your argument with Alec. Sorry for interfering.

          • Joel Hummel

            No problem. Free speech includes the right to make mistakes. All forgiven, love you! Keep on contributing, your views, and your knowledge of what is going on in the world COUNTS!

          • Joel Hummel

            Hey, do me a favor. I have a daughter, 25, fixing to graduate with a master’s degree in Nursing, something called Nurse Practioner. She is posting on her Instagram site this link to a site about student travel packages – of all things, she wants to go to Italy and Greece. What’s your take on the immigrant situation there, and what a 25-year old female could expect of such a visit? I am worried about her safety, and any insight I might gain would be a personal favor

          • Sergey Tokarev

            I don’t live there. Perhaps you should ask somebody living there, Joel. I guess these are safe countries, but unemployment rate in Greece in huge.

          • Joel Hummel

            Yeah, we all have our share of problems. Scared for my daughter though, been riding heavily on my mind. I have a felony conviction, and I spent 12 years in prison, been estranged from my daughters ever since. Upon restarting my life, I got a U.S. Passport and had the happy circumstance of meeting a good Russian woman from Moscow, happily spent time with her 4 of the last 5 years in Baden-Baden, Germany on annual vacations, so perhaps you can forgive my pro-Russian slant, but it comes from a reliable source ;) But, as life marches on year by year, my daughters have grown into adulthood, and my youngest aspires to travel abroad. Scared for her well-being, Sergey. Signed, Loving, worried, american dad.

  • TheBlogFodder

    For readers who are not aware, Alec Kinnear is a Russian troll working out of St Petersburg and paid to spread disinformation on international articles about Russia. All his information is false as regards how any country but Russia would deal with people sharing poems or other anti-government material on Facebook or other social media. Do not engage him in conversation as he is not paid top do anything other than lie.

    • TommyBazar

      It is fairly obvious from his history of comments, but I was just irritated that the only comment was such a blatant lie.

      • Sergey Tokarev

        ‘I was just irritated that the only comment was such a blatant lie.’ – are you saying that Alec should lie as much as you do, and in such case you won’t be irritated – you are irritated only by how scarce his lies are? Where did you find this one ‘blatant lie’? Why do you call honest people liars? Do you hope to reduce them to your level? (Lipspalm) #ProbablyPutinKilledArchimedes ‘Who knows? Probably’ as British judge would write in a verdict 104 times.

    • Sergey Tokarev

      I am Russian troll, Kremlinbot GR13. Alec is not Russian. (Lipspalm) #ProbablyPutinKilledArchimedes ‘Who knows? Probably’ as British judge would write in a verdict 104 times.

      • siania

        New Bellingcat report puts blame squarely on Russia for MH17 tragedy, focuses on specific Russian brigade

        Author: Alyona Zhuk

        Feb. 24, 2016 08:45

        In its latest report, Bellingcat — the open-source citizen investigative team — pinpoints the Russian brigade that provided and operated the Buk-M1 missile launcher that is believed to have downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

        The airliner was flying from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when contact was suddenly lost over the war zone in eastern Ukraine. Reports quickly came that parts from the plane had come down in Russian-backed separatist territory, with the aircraft having disintegrated in midair.

        The findings could help criminal investigators identify specific individuals responsible for the killings. The names and identities of all soldiers and officers were shared in December with the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team probing the downing of the jet, in an uncensored and more extensive version of the report, Bellingcat said.

        The investigation into the downing of the airliner is led by the Dutch Justice Ministry’s Public Prosecution Service. The Joint Investigation Team, which is also taking part in the investigation, is made up of teams from Belgium, Ukraine, Australia, and Malaysia.

        Overall, the report’s authors have concluded that the chain of commands leads up to at least Russia’s Ministry of Defense for the MH17 tragedy, along with military commanders of Kremlin-backed separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

        The document, entitled “MH17 – Potential Suspects and Witnesses from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade,” was released on Feb. 24 at 8 a.m. Kyiv time.

        The 53rd Brigade from June 23-25, 2014, transported several Buk-M1 systems to areas near the Ukrainian border, including a missile launcher dubbed by Bellingcat “Buk 3×2” (its number was partly obscured). In earlier reports, Bellingcat provided evidence that this launcher was the one that downed MH17.

        The hypothesis that this particular Buk-M1 was likely responsible for downing MH17 included evidence found by Bellingcat that located the launcher in range of MH17 shortly before the airliner was downed, and video of the launcher, minus one of its missiles, being transported through Luhansk towards Russia the morning after the tragedy.

        The report notes that there is no univocal evidence that the Buk’s crew consisted of Russian soldiers or officers. However, “Russia would very likely not hand over such a sophisticated weapon to separatists untrained and inexperienced with the Buk-M1 system,” the report says.

        According to Bellingcat, the 2nd Battalion of the 53rd Brigade was responsible for transporting Buk 3×2 to the Ukrainian border.

        “The missile launcher designated Buk 3×2 replaced a 2nd Battalion missile launcher numbered 222, thus indicating that the officers and soldiers normally responsible for Buk 222 were the most likely candidates to operate its replacement, Buk 3×2,” the report said.

        The report also states that since operating a Buk system requires extensive training, conscript soldiers who started their military service in late 2013 or early 2014 were unlikely to have been involved in the tragedy.

        “By narrowing down the scope of the search, only a relatively small group of contract soldiers and reservists who were in service in the 2nd Battalion in 2014 remain as potential suspects involved in the downing of MH17,” the report said.

        The decision to send military equipment to the Russia-Ukraine border and to Ukraine must have been made at the level of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, where the top positions in 2014 were fulfilled by Vice-Minister Arkady Bakhin, Vice-Minister Valery Gerasimov, and Minister Sergey Shoigu.

        Therefore, if Russian Buk missile launcher 3×2 downed MH17, the Ministry of Defense bears the main responsibility for the MH17 tragedy, along with the pro-Russian separatists’ leaders, Bellingcat said in its report. Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Russia’s commander-in-chief, would also bear ultimate responsibility, the report says.

        The report is the result of a thorough online investigation of soldiers and officers of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, Bellingcat said. The connections were made primarily through the soldiers’ profiles on various social networks, such as Russia’s most popular networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, as well as through blogs and another web platforms, where mothers, wives and girlfriends of Russian soldiers shared information about them.

        “If the Buk crew consisted of Russian soldiers and officers, it is likely that some number of these soldiers and officers knew the crew members of the Buk missile launcher involved in the MH17 tragedy, or were possibly crew members themselves,” the report states.

        Bellingcat did not reveal the full names of the soldiers in the released document, “as it might (disrupt) the official police investigation,” and because “the privacy of these soldiers and officers has to be respected if there is no relation between them and the MH17 tragedy.”

        The open-source outfit said it had submitted their names to investigators.

        The report consists of five sections, each covering a different aspect of the 53rd Brigade and its activities in the summer of 2014.

        The document describes the role and structure of the brigade within the Russian military, provides a detailed account of the deployment of the brigade throughout the summer of 2014, details the soldiers within the 53rd Brigade and the information provided by their public postings on social media, and provides extensive information regarding the leadership structure of the brigade.

        Kyiv Post staff writer Alyona Zhuk can be reached at zhuk@kyivpost.com

        TAGS: Russia war MH17 B

        • Sergey Tokarev

          It is really pleasant to hear from you, Snitchie. You were unwilling to discuss your cousin Panas’ perfomance during ‘Invest in Ukraine!’ show in a bank, and I was worried about you. Do you remember female bank employee who wanted her mobile back, and Panas responded: ‘I didn’t take any mobile’? He can trade it for ‘European values’, or rather valuables: booze or weed. (Yawn) #ProbablyPutinKilledArchimedes ‘Who knows? Probably’ as British judge would write in a verdict 104 times.

          • siania

            relevance to topic?

          • Sergey Tokarev

            Pardon, Snitchie? Relevance to which topic – topic of this grant-sucking presstitute Tetiuoana Lokot, or your topic of Eliot Higgins? If you mean Higgins – granny Masha, who often sits on yellow-blue bench near my home, concurs with Eliot, therefore he is right.
            If you are trying to ask, in such convoluted way, whether I know who downed MH17 or not – I do. The jet was downed by 154th regiment of UAF stationed in Artyomovsk. It was a pre-planned false flag.

          • siania

            “The jet was downed by 154th regiment of UAF stationed in Artyomovsk. It was a pre-planned false flag.”

            Sure,
            Right
            True
            Putin Arse-licker
            heh heh

          • Sergey Tokarev

            I am glad that we concur on this, Snitchie. Each MiniTruth/MiniStets troll knows this – that’s why none of you dared to challenge my assertion and bet money. More importantly, the Dutch know this, too.
            What for ‘Arse-licker’ – are you hinting on seksual intercourse? I have to disappoint you – I didn’t find my dick in a garbage container, and I don’t stick it into each filthy hole. Regards.

        • slavko

          Bellingcat actually offers a very systematic and logical unfolding of events in their report regarding MH17. I was reading the Russian accusations and they were just nonsensical hypotheses without any depth of reasoning.

          • Sergey Tokarev

            Do you enjoy Ukraine Today now, when most of your opponents are banned? I hope you do. However there are fewer commenters now.
            Eliot Higgins isn’t worth any attention. Regards.

          • slavko

            What opponents? I don’t reply to rude commentators or people who insist on mindlessly repeating old hearsay without at least being open to newer information. Didn’t know some were being banned. But why? Rude language? Not familiar with Elliot Higgins. And to be honest with you, I really don’t enjoy continuous arguments over politics. Goodwill is generally lacking for mutual exploration of subject. Instead in place I see a lot of arrogance and hard line nationalists. Personally, life would be better for all if governments respected borders and refrained from changing them, while populations can move as they wish without changing the “flavor” of the host country. How simple is that? Regards to you as well Sergey.

          • Sergey Tokarev

            You don’t need to know that people were banned. You can simply look at those ‘forums’ and see that there are few guys left parroting the same MiniTruth narrative.
            Eliot Higgins is a guy. He graduated from school some years ago. Being unemployed, he called himself Brown Moses and ‘investigated’ claims that SAA used chemical weapons is Syria. All this turned out to be bullsh*t. SAA didn’t use chemical weapons, the terrorists did.
            Later he called himself Bellingcat. He ‘investigates’ MH17. He has no idea about anything. He is biased, he is the Atlantic Council grant-sucker, still he calles himself independent. I don’t object of course to DSB checking all his allegations. Apparently they have endless supply of time, and labor is free there.

          • slavko

            I don’t think the Dutch people nor the DSB to be that stupid as to be without any sense of scientific inquiry. I’m sure that they have looked into Bellingcat’s claims as well as are going through a process to establish whether Bellingcat is blowing things out of his rear. My suspicion is that there are other processes involved in the MH17 investigation that we have no public knowledge of. Cause and effect occurrences DO leave a trail, such is the nature of our world. It also is apparent that the Dutch are NOT necessarily pro-Ukraine as evidenced by their hesitation to allow Ukraine into the EU so readily. So am confident that the outcome of their investigation will be scientifically correlated with no stone left unturned. How else to approach to know the truth?!

    • Joel Hummel

      Alec Kinnear is also a highly intelligent person, who has a lot of good things to say about the world and all it’s happenings. Perhaps you should trouble yourself to follow him on other forums….

    • Not Russian, not troll, not paid. Unlike many though I have worked in both Russia and the Ukraine so I do have the benefit of first hand knowledge of that part of the world.

  • Alehandro_89

    Russian authorities sentence, jail and kill people who don’t share Russian communism and fight for Russia to choose democratic western array. If Russian anticomunist parties obtain a majority of the vote, President Putin fakes the political elections outcomes. President Putin faked the last political elections for example. Some opponents were poisoned with radioactive substances. It seems I m talking about a horror movie, not a normal country. But Russia is the country of the death, horror, tortures against who does not agree to communist dictatorship and honest people who do not protest live in a nightmare country marked by poverty and total lack of democracy. President Obama and the West can’t accept such a situation. The West should delete every relationship with Moscow and its allies. I hope the economical embargo versus Russia to deepen though I m aware that poor people will be penalized, not Russian government.
    I express my full solidariety for Ekaterina Vologzheninova with the awereness Putin deserves a long imprisonment. Russia deserves much better Presidents, like Gorbachov. It is needed a non-military war against Russia. Thanks

    • Sergey Tokarev

      ‘Russian authorities sentence, jail and kill people ‘ – this is inconclusive. You should add that they eat people for breakfast. Do you like my version – ‘Russian authorities sentence, jail, kill and eat people’? Which country are you from, imbecile?
      #ProbablyPutinKilledArchimedes ‘Who knows? Probably’ as British judge would write in a verdict 104 times..

      • Alehandro_89

        In Russia the authorities do not eat the children. They only murder and close in Siberian concentration camps them who want democracy in Russia. What is the problem my dear stupid?
        I forgot: the orphan children are jailed in creepy orphanages. I m sorry but I fear Russia is much more disgusting than what western News tell. Don’t worry: Obama defends Putin by saying Russia is not an enemy country. President Obama is more stupid than you

      • Alehandro_89

        Russian army has just destroyed five hospitals and one school in Syria but Russia is not an enemy country. Unbelievable

        • Sergey Tokarev

          Is it you, Panas, cousin of Oleksandra? I saw a video of you ransacking banks in Kiev. It was impressive.
          Russian army has just destroyed 100500 hospitals? We should add them to 100500 hospitals destroyed the other day, right?

      • siania

        “Gorby was inept, gutless and naive, but not even nearly as rotten and power-hungry as Drunkard Bo.”

        No hopers just like all russian politicians especially the idioyota putler and lavrov

      • Joel Hummel

        gee, the original comment was deleted. You must have scared the crap out of him, Sergey…

  • Pingback: Ukrainian Court Equates Social Network Profile With Mainstream Media · Global Voices()

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