07/15/2022, 11.40
RUSSIA
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Heroes do not flee: Ilya Jashin imprisoned

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Two months of pre-trial detention for the Moscow Duma deputy. He faces up to 10 years for spreading "falsehoods" about the army. Like Naval'nyj, one of the very few opponents who did not flee. The anti-Putin front is still alive in Russia. 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The repression of opponents of the Putin regime in Russia hardly makes the headlines anymore, but the arrest of the capital's city hall deputy Ilja Jashin has caused quite a stir. He is one of the most prominent figures still in the field after Aleksej Naval'nyj and many of his associates were sent to prison and many other opposition activists fled abroad.

On 13 July, the Bassmannyy court in Moscow decreed that Jashin be arrested and remanded in custody for two months, and the politician now faces a sentence of up to 10 years. He stands charged with spreading 'fake news about the army' were raised against him because of a video circulated on YouTube on 7 April in which he spoke about mass killings in Bucha and around Kiev.

In the video Jashin accuses Russian soldiers of war crimes, citing a BBC video of events in Bucha. The deputy was taken from his flat, which was searched, and then charged with resisting a public official for not voluntarily handing over the keys to all furniture and drawers. A small crowd of Jashin's supporters who had gathered in front of the court, were arrested in turn.

Jashin is one of the few opposition figures who had managed to win a seat in the Moscow Duma in last year's local elections, thanks to the Navalnist mechanisms of the 'tactical vote'. The mechanism was opposed in every possible way by the regime. He is also one of the very few to follow the example of Naval'nyj himself, remaining in Russia knowing full well that he would face harsh persecution. His supporters had pleaded with him on social networks to 'flee or you'll end up in jail!', but he himself had spoken on Jurij Dud's (also arrested) television programme, saying he was 'ready for the lager'.

A colleague of Jashin's, the deputy of Moscow's Kranoselsky district Aleksej Gorinov, has also already been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for 'pronouncing falsehoods', ushering in the recently passed provisions of the law. Jashin's two months of pre-trial detention, as his lawyer Mikhail Birjukov explains, is a sign of a repressive approach, being unnecessary before the indictment, and does not bode well for the outcome of the trial.

The defence intends to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the indictment and the arrest methods, and Jashin himself wants to 'fight all the way' to defend his rights and freedom of expression in general, as he said: 'It is not normal that it is forbidden to question the Ministry of Defence' press releases’. The MP's friends and supporters did not believe in the arrest until the very end, because of Jashin's ability to express his thoughts without violating any existing rules. As several supporters expressed it, 'we thought they were satisfied with Naval'nyj'.

Jashin had grown in authority in recent times, presenting himself as a credible, effective, and independent politician, even compared to the rest of the opposition. The signal that the authorities intend to give with his arrest, simply put, is 'get out, all of you', and as the lawyers believe, in court the prosecutor will state that ‘you were given many signals and warnings, if you didn't leave, the fault is yours alone'.

Instead, the few heroes of dissent who chose what is called the 'Naval'nyj option' are sending a strong message to the entire population: we are not traitors or pro-Westerners, we are Russians, and Russia is not Putin's Russia. Ilja Jashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Aleksej Gorinov and many other lesser-known people, few of whom are still at large, testify to a hope that no war can stifle: as journalist Aleksandr Rikhlin says, 'heroes are not only those who die, they are also those who do not flee, and we will not forget that'. 

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