Russia sentences popular cookbook author for publishing in Ukraine
MOSCOW — A Moscow court on Monday sentenced a popular cookbook author and blogger to nine years in prison after convicting her in absentia of spreading false information about the country’s military. The trial was part of the Kremlin’s sweeping crackdown on dissent that has spanned months.
The charges against Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who lives abroad, arose over her Instagram posts which authorities said contained “deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to destroy cities and the civilian population of Ukraine, including children”.
Belotserkovskaya, whose Instagram profile says she was born in Odessa, a city in southern Ukraine, responded to the sentencing announcement by writing that she is, “on the one hand puzzled, and d ‘on the other hand, of course, proud’.
The Russian Investigative Committee announced the launch of a case against Belotserkovskaya on March 16, 2022, several weeks after Moscow troops arrived in Ukraine. It was the first publicly known case under a new law passed earlier this month that penalized information considered derogatory to the Russian military.
Russian authorities issued a warrant for the blogger’s arrest in absentia, put her on a wanted list and seized 153 million rubles (about $2.2 million) of her assets.
She has also been declared a “foreign agent,” a designation that involves additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations aimed at discrediting the recipient.
Belotserkovskaya received by far the longest prison term under the new law and is the second high-profile public figure to be sentenced in absentia.
Last week, a Moscow court sentenced Alexander Nevzorov, a television journalist and former lawmaker, in absentia to eight years in prison on the same charges. Nevzorov was accused of posting “false information” on social media regarding the Russian shelling of a maternity hospital in the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. Moscow fiercely denied his involvement.
The journalist moved abroad after the start of the Ukrainian conflict.
In December, prominent opposition politician Ilya Yashin was sentenced to 8½ years in prison under the same law. Earlier last year, Alexei Gorinov, a member of a Moscow city council that Yashin used to chair, was sentenced to seven years in prison for his critical remarks about hostilities in Ukraine.
Another leading opposition figure, Vladimir Kara-Murza, is currently in detention and faces the same charges.