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The Lomonosov District Court in Russia's northwestern Leningrad region sentenced a local Russian entrepreneur to a year and a half in prison for publicly discrediting the Russian armed forces. The agency notes, citing the press service of the Prosecutor's Office of the Leningrad Oblast, that the case against the defendant is the first and so far only in the region under this article of the Criminal Code of Russia.

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The court found that 48-year-old Dmitry Skurikhin had placed on the facade of his shop in the village of Rusko-Vysotsky inscriptions and posters containing messages aimed at discrediting the Russian army, and the man uploaded similar materials on social networks. In addition, Skurikhin had already been charged with administrative responsibility for similar actions. In February, he posted messages discrediting the Russian armed forces once again on social networks, after which he was already indicted.

Skurikhin's lawyer, Dmitry Gerasimov, told AFP that his client remained "adamant" and "very brave" at the trial, despite his conviction.

"He never thought he would be jailed," the lawyer added, adding that he would appeal.

The first investigation against Skurikhin was launched in September 2022 after he posted anti-war posters on the facade of his store, Russian NGOs OVD-Info and Memorial reported.

In February 2023, the entrepreneur became the subject of a second investigation into the inscription "Ukraine, forgive us!".

Journalist on trial in Russia loses appeal of sentence

Initially detained in custody, Skurikhin was soon sent to house arrest, and now a prison sentence has been handed down against him.

The entrepreneur also posted a video in Telegram protesting against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Skurikhin had previously opposed Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014 and showed solidarity with opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which caused him problems with local authorities and police.

Russia has faced a wave of persecution of dissenters from the government's policies for years, but it has increased since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, with almost all of Russia's main opposition leaders jailed or forced to flee the country.

According to OVD-Info, more than 600 people are currently subject to criminal cases in Russia for opposing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russian invasion of Ukraine