EU state convicts nine people for supporting Russia

The Czech Republic banned shows of support for Moscow’s military offensive last year

Czech authorities have convicted nine people for making public statements in support of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Prosecutor General Igor Striz told local media outlets on Wednesday. Some 90 additional cases are still being investigated.

One of the nine was sentenced to a nine-month prison sentence for making “hateful statements” about Ukrainians on social media, Striz told the Pravo newspaper. The other eight received either fines or suspended sentences. 

The jailed man unsuccessfully argued in court that his statements referred only to “Ukrainian nationalists,” and that his right to free speech entitled him to use vulgar language, a Czech TV channel reported at the time.

Another 58 people have been charged with supporting Russian “aggression,” while investigations against 90 more have been opened, Striz told the newspaper.

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Shortly after the beginning of Russia’s military operation last February, Striz announced that public statements in support of the operation or of Russia’s leaders would be treated as criminal acts. Suspects would be charged under Czech laws forbidding the endorsement of crime or genocide, he declared.

The Czech Republic is not the only EU country to crack down on freedom of speech in the name of supporting Ukraine. The ‘Z’ symbol – used to identify Russian military vehicles in Ukraine – has been banned in several German states and in six EU countries, including the Czech Republic. A court in Hamburg last October fined a 63-year-old man $4,000 for displaying the symbol on his car.

Several journalists have fallen foul of the law too. German reporter Alina Lipp has claimed that she is being investigated by German authorities over her work in Donetsk and could face three years in prison for her “endorsement” of Russia’s “illegal aggressive war,” while Sputnik Latvia editor-in-chief Marat Kasem has been jailed since December in his home country for working for the Russian outlet.

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