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Russian convicted of ‘incitement’ for reposting criticism of Russia’s war against Ukraine

Halya Coynash

Left: War is peace, freedom - slavery, ignorance - strenght; Right: Top: Stop, Ukraine! We’re brothers! Bottom: BROTHERS, I told you!

A court in Russia has found Roman Grishin guilty of ‘inciting enmity’ by reposting a musical video clip critical of Russia’s military engagement in eastern Ukraine.  This was not the first time that repressive measures have been used for merely reposting the video’s hard-hitting attack on the excuses Russia uses for its aggression, but it is the first criminal prosecution.

Grishin was sentenced by the Kaluga District Court on June 10 to 320 hours community service.  The conviction will be appealed, with the defence’s position prepared by Grishin’s lawyer Alexander Gavrikov, in cooperation with a lawyer from the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Denis Shedov.  Since the prosecutor had demanded one and a half years’ minimum security prison sentence, it is also possible that the prosecutor could lodge an appeal, claiming that the sentence was ‘too mild’. 

Grishin notes that the court paid no heed to the fact that there had already been two other court proceedings over the clip.  On one occasion, Nina Solovyova was sentenced to 10 days’ imprisonment, but this was at least under the Code of Administrative Offences.  Now, unless a miracle happens, Grishin will have a criminal record for ‘extremism’.

The court also ignored an alternative assessment of the video presented by the defence which totally demolished that presented by local ‘experts’. The ruling, typically, was taken almost verbatim from the indictment.   

Grishin says that he was accused of having “stirred up hatred towards the following groups: Russians, Orthodox Christians; people from [the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, as well as to the leaders of Russia and of the Russian Orthodox Church as a group.”   Russia increasingly abuses its very broad ‘extremism’ legislation, most cynically the norms on incitement, to impose a Soviet level of repression against dissident thinkers.  No more need to send people to labour camps for ‘anti-Soviet propaganda’.  Now you simply claim that criticism of the regime’s war in Donbas is aimed at inciting ‘hatred to a group’, with such groups even including people from the too so-called ‘republics’ that the Kremlin tries to say have nothing to do with Russia.

FSB officers in balaclavas turned up at Grishin’s work on Nov 17, 2016 and took him to the Investigative Committee.  There he was shown the video clip that he had reposted, and asked why he had posted it, why he travels to Ukraine so often and “why he calls for Jews to be killed”. 

He was then show screenshot images from his VKontakte social network page and the opinion of an ‘expert’ who claimed that he called for the killing of Jews.

No charges were laid and he was released.  He told Open Russia that he had not sought a lawyer or spoken with the press since he hoped that the interrogation was the end of the matter.  Then on Dec 16, he was informed of criminal charges and presented with a new, “fatter” linguistic assessment. 

“It contained the same conclusion – that by posting his video, I was spreading enmity, inciting hatred, and so forth.”  There was no interrogation as such, unless one counts the investigator’s question as to whether he was willing to go to prison.  There was a state-appointed lawyer who simply burbled something about how he shouldn’t argue with the state, that no good would come of it. 

It remains a mystery where the so-called linguistic expert found a call to kill Jews in Boris Sevastyanov’s “New hit from Kharkiv: This, baby, is Rushism”.  The term merges ‘Russian’ and ‘fascism’ and refers to Russian ideas about their ‘special mission’, the ‘Russian world’ which they claim includes Ukraine, and the use of the Russian Orthodox Church to claim moral authority for acts of aggression.  The refrain, in fact, says: “That, baby, is rashism, Orthodox fascism.  We’ll seize and appropriate, and hold a referendum”

The lyrics note, for example, that “fascists shout about fascists louder than anybody else” and says that Putin’s favourite occupation is looking for enemies, that they hate Americans, Ukrainians and Jews (offensive terms are used for all three of the latter, but in context that is clearly criticism of those who look for ‘enemies’).    

Both the images and the lyrics are a devastating attack on Russia’s claims that Ukraine is a ‘brother nation’ (If we’re brothers, then you are Cain, we are Abel), and on Russian propaganda.  “Journalists don’t know how to lie more monstrously, and are willing to kiss Putin’s arse for honours”.

The video clip should be watched first in Russian, however there is also an English translation




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