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Ukraine war coverage lands exiled Russia journalist Alexander Nevzorov a prison sentence

Moscow — A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced in absentia veteran journalist Alexander Nevzorov to eight years in prison for spreading "false information" about Moscow's war in Ukraine. The verdict is the latest in a series of high-profile rulings under new legislation that opponents of the Kremlin say was designed to criminalize criticism of the conflict.

Nevzorov, 64, came under pressure from authorities for alleging that Russian forces deliberately shelled a maternity hospital in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine that was captured by Moscow after a long siege.

Russia Opposition
Veteran Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov speaks in St. Petersburg, Russia, in a February 24, 2012 file photo. Sergei Konkov/AP

"Journalist Alexander Glebovich Nevzorov was found guilty... and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of eight years," the press service for Moscow courts said in a statement on Telegram.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of nine years in jail. Nevsorov said in response to the verdict: "I don't think Russia will exist in nine years' time."

Russia defends attack on maternity hospital 03:57

According to the Reuters news agency, he told a Russian outlet that he didn't plan to return to his country and accused its president, Vladimir Putin, of leading "a dictatorship based on dirt, blood and denunciations."

Nevzorov left Russia almost a year ago and did not take part in the hearings. The court said Wednesday that if he was to come home, he'd be sent to one of Russia's notorious penal colonies. The court also formally banned him from managing online content for four years — a move unlikely to have much impact on his work in exile.

Russia imposes new law criminalizing criticism of Ukraine invasion 04:07

Investigators launched the probe in March last year, saying Nevzorov had intentionally published "misleading information" with "inaccurate photographs of civilians affected by the shelling," which prompted him to leave the country with his wife.

He was designated a "foreign agent" one month later, a branding that carries Soviet-era connotations and piles bureaucratic pressure on people hit with the label.

Nevzorov is a former member of parliament and his popular YouTube channel boasts nearly two million subscribers.

After the Kremlin ordered troops into Ukraine last February, Russia introduced new legislation criminalizing what authorities consider to be false or damaging information about the Russian army and the offensive.

Several politicians and public figures have faced jail terms under the new law, including opposition councilor Ilya Yashin, who was sentenced to eight and a half years behind bars.

Russia Opposition
Russian opposition activist Ilya Yashin gestures as he stands inside a glass cubicle in a courtroom, prior to a hearing in Moscow, Russia, December 9, 2022. Yury Kochetkov/AP

Separately, a court in Russia's Far East sentenced an activist to three years in jail for "discrediting" the military and being in contempt of court, Russian media reported on Monday.

Vladislav Nikitenko sent out requests to authorities asking to initiate criminal proceedings against members of Russia's Security Council, including President Vladimir Putin, for "acts of international terrorism."

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