An anti-Kremlin activist jailed for social media posts criticising the invasion of Ukraine has told Sky News that “Russia is not Putin”.
Dmitry Ivanov, who founded an opposition Telegram channel run for students at his university, was convicted in a Moscow court of spreading misinformation about the army.
Mr Ivanov, a 23-year-old Russian blogger, will now spend more than eight years in prison.
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Last year, the Kremlin passed a law making it illegal to publish what it says is false information about its war in Ukraine.
The legislation has been used to prosecute individuals who veer away from the government’s official line that it is “a special military operation”.
Speaking before he was sentenced, Mr Ivanov told Sky News: “You must understand that Russia is not Putin.
“We didn’t vote for him and he did not ask us about starting this war with our closest neighbours.
“I know that tens of millions of people here in Russia are against this criminal war. Lots of us have friends and relatives in Ukraine and we feel their pain.”
Mr Ivanov said the war was a “great tragedy for the Ukrainian people” but was also a “tragedy for Russians”.
He called for peace, hitting out at the “suffering under dictatorship”, and said today was a “dark moment of our history but the darkest moment is always the first sunrise”.
Mr Ivanov was charged over a number of social media posts on his Telegram channel that called Russia’s campaign in Ukraine a “war” and talked about Russian forces attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
The posts also accused Russia of committing war crimes in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, and targeting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Most were reposts from other sources.
Mr Ivanov, a former student from Lomonosov Moscow State University, will also be unable to have any presence on the internet for four years after his release.
Amnesty International reported he had also posted a video message from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and called for protests in Russia.
Images and videos on Telegram show Mr Ivanov shrugging his shoulders as the sentence is read out, as well as smiling and laughing.
He had maintained his innocence and stood by his original comments.
In his final address to the court last week, Mr Ivanov rejected the charges against him as “looking absurd” and said the crime he was prosecuted for “shouldn’t exist at all”.
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“Discrediting” the army publicly in Russia can draw a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.