Russia sentenced Ukrainian women for free speech seen as a fake by the regime

A Moscow court sentenced Khrystyna Lyubashenko, a 35-year-old Ukrainian woman, to 12 years in prison in a controversial decision that reflected Russia’s harsh crackdown on dissidents.

The charges against her include the alleged dissemination of “fake news” about the war and participation in a terrorist organization. This case underscores the severe penalties faced by those who dare to challenge the Kremlin’s narratives about the Putin regime’s war against Ukraine, called by Russian authorities and propaganda media ‘a special military operation’.

Accusations of fake news about the Russian army and the war are made under the new article of Russia’s criminal code, introduced after Russia started an all-out war against Ukraine. 

Accusation of ‘fakes about the war’

Khrystyna Lyubashenko relocated from Kyiv to Switzerland with her children, mother, and grandfather following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

While in Switzerland, she met a neighbor, Vitaliy Yurchenko, who purported to be a fellow refugee from Ukraine. According to her lawyer, Yurchenko offered Lyubashenko money to travel to Moscow and conduct a peaceful protest by releasing blue and yellow balloons.

In May 2023, Lyubashenko traveled to Moscow, where Yurchenko coerced her into placing speakers with anti-war speeches and the Ukrainian national anthem in her windows, threatening her children if she refused. 

She complied and, a few days later, released white balloons with the white-blue-white flag, leading to her arrest.

Her lawyer pointed out that the Russian authorities had prior knowledge of her planned protest, suggesting premeditated surveillance and entrapment. 

Initially held in a temporary detention center, Lyubashenko was subsequently sentenced by the Second Western District Military Court on June 17 to 12 years of imprisonment.

Russian authorities’ repression of dissidents

The allegations against Lyubashenko and the harsh punishment illustrate how the Russian regime labels dissent as terrorism or the spread of fake news to justify severe repressions. 

These actions are emblematic of the Kremlin’s increasing use of the judicial system to suppress dissent and critics. The severe penalties imposed on individuals like Lyubashenko reflect dictatorial repressions against any form of protest or opposition.

This approach not only undermines free speech but also instills fear among the population, discouraging any form of protest against the Putin government’s policy. 

By jailing those who spread the truth about Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Kremlin aims to control public opinion about its policies and eliminate any potential threats to its authority.

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