Russian dissident Oleg Orlov sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his denunciations of the war in Ukraine

He had appealed his sentence to pay a fine in October 2023

Russian dissident Oleg Orlov sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his denunciations of the war in Ukraine

He had appealed his sentence to pay a fine in October 2023. Four months later, Russian dissident Oleg Orlov was finally sentenced to thirty months of incarceration in a penal colony on Tuesday, February 28, for repeated denunciations of Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine. The prosecution had requested two years and eleven months in prison. The trial of this figure in the defense of human rights in Russia opened on Friday 16th in Moscow. Before the opening of the debates, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he was “in a fighting spirit”.

Veteran of Memorial, the NGO co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and dissolved by Russian justice, the 70-year-old man faced up to five years in prison for his repeated denunciations of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, launched two years ago by Vladimir Putin.

Stayed in Russia to “continue the fight”

At the end of a first trial, Oleg Orlov was found guilty in October 2023 of having “discredited” the army and sentenced to a small fine, a very lenient verdict in a Russia which has become accustomed to imprison critics of the regime. To everyone's surprise, the prosecution requested this fine, justifying it by the age of the opponent and his state of health. Then, he changed his mind and appealed, deploring an ultimately “excessively light” sanction.

Russian justice then decided to send the case back to investigators and launch a new trial against the dissident for the same accusations. If most of Vladimir Putin's critics have been incarcerated or driven into exile in recent years, against a backdrop of accelerating repression, Oleg Orlov explained to AFP this week that he was staying in Russia to "continue the fight."

There is therefore no question for him of bowing down in the face of justice that he describes as unjust: “Repent, admit guilt before the judges? That would mean denying my whole life.” However, he says he expects a guilty verdict before the presidential election in mid-March which should see Vladimir Putin triumph without opposition.

Opposition to the war in Ukraine

In fact, Oleg Orlov is accused of having demonstrated against the Russian assault in Ukraine and of having signed a vitriolic column against the Russian authorities published by the French media Mediapart. This text accused Russian troops of the "mass" murder of Ukrainian civilians and denounced the "victory" in Russia of the "darkest forces", those who "dreamed of total revenge" after the breakup of the USSR in 1991 .

A sign that the noose has tightened around him in recent months, the Russian authorities placed him on the infamous list of “foreign agents” at the beginning of February, a qualification which is accompanied by strict administrative constraints. Hundreds of other people, human rights activists, opponents or independent journalists have been placed in recent years on this list with Soviet-era overtones.

Active since the 1970s, Oleg Orlov has become one of the pillars of Memorial, the main organization fighting in Russia to preserve the memory of Soviet repressions and documenting those of President Putin's Russia. The NGO was dissolved at the end of 2021 by Russian justice, but was then rewarded with the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, a few months after the launch of the Russian assault in Ukraine.