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10 Sep, 2023 22:26

Ukrainian pensioner jailed for social media ‘likes’

An elderly woman was sentenced to five years behind bars over sharing posts about Russia’s actions
Ukrainian pensioner jailed for social media ‘likes’

A woman in Ukraine’s northern Chernigov Region has been given a jail term of five years for simultaneously justifying, denying, and glorifying Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, local media reported on Friday, citing a court decision. 

According to court documents, the defendant, whose identity was not made public, ‘liked’ three posts on the ‘Odnoklassniki’ website. The platform is popular in Russia and other former Soviet republics, particularly among the older population, but is banned in Ukraine.

The posts in question included a social media post, a video published by Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, and a “text and graphic material glorifying” the actions of the Russian forces in Ukraine. The woman also used a function that made all the posts she liked automatically reposted by her account, making them visible for her 178 social media friends, the court said.

At the court hearing, the defendant made a full confession and asked the judge not to punish her particularly harshly. She also said she was acting “under the influence of political shows” and did not understand that she was committing a crime.

The woman’s age was not revealed by the Ukrainian judicial authorities either. The court documents only state that she was an elderly person with no prior criminal records. Apart from sentencing her to jail time, the judge also ordered the confiscation of the woman’s mobile phone and notebook, and demanded she pay court expenses amounting to 18,122 hryvnas ($490).

The sanctions against a number of Russian websites, such as Odnoklassniki, were imposed by former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko in 2017. The ban was extended by the current president, Vladimir Zelensky. Prior to the ban, around 24 million people – more than half of the country’s population – used Russian sites.

In January 2022, around a month before the conflict between Kiev and Moscow broke out, a Ukrainian man was slapped with a fine of $350 for liking a post calling for the overthrow of the government in Kiev. He was charged with undermining national security.

Over the course of the conflict with Russia, Kiev has further tightened its grip on the media, internet, and politics with highly restrictive laws. In December 2022, it adopted a media law which was slammed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) as having “systemic problems for democracy.”

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