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19 Jan, 2022 08:09

Ukrainian man fined for 'liking' picture

Social media user will now have to pay around $350
Ukrainian man fined for 'liking' picture

A Ukrainian man has been fined for liking a post calling for the overthrow of his country’s government on a Russian social media network, after Kiev prosecutors charged him with undermining national security.

On Sunday, Kiev's Strana reported that the ruling had been handed down by a court in the northeastern Sumy Oblast in late December. The man, known as Yuri K., was punished for reacting to an image which called for the unification of Ukraine and Belarus with Russia, on the platform Odnoklassniki, which translates as ‘classmates’ and is banned in the country.

The image in question featured the flags of the three nations alongside text appealing for them to be unified as “one people.” Under the illustration, there was a call which read “let’s overthrow the current authorities in Kiev!”

“If you agree – like and repost,” the text accompanying the photograph read, adding that “our strength is in unity.”

The Sumy prosecutor’s office and the country’s security service accused the gas station attendant of violating a clause of Kiev’s Criminal Code which provides punishment for “public calls for violent change or the overthrowal of the constitutional order or seizure of state power, as well as the distribution of materials with appeals to commit such actions.”

The local resident signed a plea deal admitting his guilt and was fined $150 for liking the photo, which was uploaded in May 2020 by an unidentified user. Over $200 in costs covering court expertise were also claimed back from him.

Had the man not entered a plea deal, he could have faced imprisonment or restrictions on his freedom for up to three years, with the possible confiscation of his belongings, according to Strana.

An expert from the Ministry of Justice ruled that the publication contained “an open call to an indefinite circle of people… to overthrow the current Ukrainian authorities… which is a public appeal for a violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order or seizure of state power.”

The sanctions against a number of Russian websites, such as Odnoklassniki, were imposed by Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, in 2017. Vitaly Moroz, the head of New Media at NGO ‘Internews Ukraine’, said the reason behind the move was to give another response to perceived Russian information threats. He also remarked, however, that the decision “will be a significant blow to Internet freedom in Ukraine.”

Prior to the ban, around 24 million people – more than half of the country’s population – used Russian sites. The current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, signed a decree in May 2020 prolonging the blocking of access to the websites until 2023.