EU country jails Russian trucker
A Russian long-haul trucker was sentenced on Friday by an Estonian court to a year behind bars for supporting what they called “Russian aggression” in Ukraine. Vladimir Shilov collected money to buy three small quadcopters he intended to give to elite Russian paratroopers, the Baltic state’s prosecutors claimed. Two other men were also convicted for contributing to Shilov’s crowdfunding drive.
A court in the northern county of Harju sentenced Shilov to four months in prison right away, with the remaining eight to be suspended, unless he violates the law again over the next four years. He was also told to pay over €1,600 in court costs.
Prosecutor Melinda Ulend accused Shilov of “buying equipment needed for combat operations, such as drones” and “aiding aggression” by collecting funding for the Russian military, in violation of Article 91-1 of the Estonian criminal code. The maximum sentence under the statute is five years in prison.
Estonian prosecutors said Shilov used some of his own money, as well as funds from an online fundraiser, to buy three small drones. He then tried to transport them to Russia, but was detained at the Koidula border crossing on May 28. Estonia’s Criminal Police (KaPo) wouldn’t say if their arrest warrant was based on the photo Shilov had posted on the VK social network, showing the drones in the cab of his truck.
The 43-year-old trucker’s social media feed also features statements in support of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, a photo of him in a T-shirt that says “I am Russian,” and videos of him singing at various venues in Pskov Region, where he is a permanent resident. Shilov is a dual citizen of Russia and Estonia.
Two other long-haulers, Ilya and Ruslan Golembovsky, were found guilty of donating money to Shilov. They were given five-month suspended sentences and told to pay around €1,200 in court costs each. Prosecutors said that Shilov and his confederates were trying to smuggle drones to Pskov, which happens to be where Russia’s elite airborne forces are based.
There are several VK groups in Pskov that crowdfund for commercial drones that can be donated to the Russian military. One such group consists of fans of the 76th Airborne Strike Division, but its administrators told the Russian newspaper Kommersant that Shilov had no ties to them whatsoever.
A former Soviet republic and now a member of the EU and NATO, Estonia has around 1.3 million citizens, of which almost a quarter are ethnic Russians. The government in Tallinn recently decided to abolish Russian-language instruction in elementary schools. Disagreements on how to implement this led to the downfall of the ruling coalition and the resignation of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, an outspoken supporter of Ukraine.