The Another

    Man sentenced to seven years in prison for ‘denying Nazi character of Ukrainian regime’



    As the “special military operation” in Ukraine goes on, the Russian judicial system continues to innovate. On Monday, April 24, the country recorded its first conviction for spreading “false information” about the army’s actions, in a decision based on evidence from wiretaps. A police captain named Semiel Vedel was sentenced to seven years in prison for talking about the killing of civilians in Ukraine, underestimating Russian military losses and, in the words of the investigation, for “denying the Nazi character of the Ukrainian regime”.

    In addition to the severity of the sentence, the investigators’ modus operandi raises questions. Vedel, who worked as a driver for a high-ranking officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, had been bugged by his own colleagues. Officially, the reason was tied to a murder case from 20 years ago, rather than doubts about the loyalty of the 37-year-old officer, a Russian national who was born in Irpin and whose father resides in Bucha, two localities in Ukraine where Russian troops are accused of having killed civilians.

    ‘Monstrous invasion of privacy’

    Three conversations with friends and colleagues, dating from March 2022, were considered in the investigation. However, investigators ran into a legal difficulty: the article of the criminal code used (adopted specifically after the invasion of Ukraine) mentions the “public dissemination of false news about the action of the army”. To get around this obstacle, the “public” was determined to be the agent who was eavesdropping on Vedel.

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    The agent was said to have experienced, while doing his work, “anguish, fear, and the feeling of not being protected by the state”. These formulations appear in the file for Vedel’s case. An imprisoned opponent, Ilia Yashin, was able to see this file in jail, where he was in contact with the police officer during his pre-trial detention, and helped make the case public. At the last hearing before the sentencing, the police officer’s lawyer denounced “a monstrous intrusion into people’s private lives,” and said he feared that “any conversation in the kitchen” could now fall under the law.

    In fact, the courts have already considered dozens of cases arising from whistleblowing as a result of private conversations.

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    Translation of an original article published in English on; the publisher may only be liable for the French version.

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