©Private archive

Russia: Release municipal councilor put on trial for criticizing Russian aggression in Ukraine

Hearings have begun today in the case against Aleksei Gorinov, a Moscow municipal councilor who was charged with disseminating “knowingly false information” after he criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Councilor Aleksei Gorinov is being prosecuted because he dared to speak out against Russia’s crime of aggression at a municipal council session. He has been in pre-trial detention for five weeks, and could face up to ten years in prison if found guilty.

“This is part of a ruthless campaign by Russian authorities to stamp out any criticism of their actions in Ukraine. Anyone who does speak out risks prosecution, whether they are an elected politician, activist, teacher or journalist. High profile trials like this are intended to send a chilling message to anyone who might be willing of peacefully expressing their opinions. Aleksei Gorinov and all those deprived of their liberty for peaceful expression of anti-war views must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

This is part of a ruthless campaign by Russian authorities to stamp out any criticism of their actions in Ukraine. Anyone who does speak out risks prosecution, whether they are an elected politician, activist, teacher or journalist

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Aleksei Gorinov is being charged under a recently amended article of Russia’s criminal code. Since the amendment in March, Russian authorities have launched at least 53 criminal investigations into “fake news” about Russian forces.

Background

On 1 June, the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow held the first hearing in the case against Aleksei Gorinov, councilor of Moscow’s Krasnoselsky District. He has been charged with disseminating “knowingly false information” about the Russian Armed Forces.

Aleksei Gorinov and his fellow councilor Elena Kotyonochkina were indicted on 26 April. According to the prosecution, on 15 March Aleksei Gorinov made a statement about Russian aggression in Ukraine during a council session. He spoke about the deaths of Ukrainian children which have resulted from the war, which Russian authorities continue to describe as a “special military operation.” Authorities said that Aleksei Gorinov had conspired with Elena Kotyonochkina who was presiding at a session “to discredit the military using his official position.”

Aleksei Gorinov was put in pre-trial detention on 27 April; Elena Kotyonochkina had left Russia by the time the investigation was launched, and was charged in absentia. She faces imminent arrest upon return to Russia.

The prosecution took one week to finalize the investigation in Aleksei Gorinov’s case – an unusually short time by Russian standards. He was given one day to review his case file, in violation of his right to adequate time to prepare his defense, a key component of fair trial standards.

STOP THE AGGRESSION AND PROTECT CIVILIANS IN UKRAINE

Right now, people in Ukraine are facing a catastrophic human rights crisis. People are dying, including children, and many thousands of lives are at risk. Take action to demand that the Russian authorities stop this act of aggression and protect civilians now.