No More Jail Time For Russian Actor Ustinov As Sentence Changed

MOSCOW -- The Moscow City Court has reduced actor Pavel Ustinov’s 3 1/2-year prison sentence to a one-year suspended sentence amid an outcry over punishments being handed out after a series of pro-democracy rallies over the summer.

The court also ruled on September 30 that Ustinov will be put on a two-year probation period.

Ustinov and his lawyer had asked the court to fully acquit the actor, saying his previous conviction for assaulting a law enforcement officer during a rally in August was unjust.

Following the ruling, Ustinov told Current Time that he will continue to fight for vindication.

"I'm ready to go through all the stages," he said, "all the stages of Russia's legal proceedings and then to the [European Court of Human Rights]. I'm ready."

The 23-year-old, who once worked as a National Guard officer, pleaded not guilty, saying he was standing nearby and was not participating in the rally at which activists challenged the refusal by officials to register opposition and independent candidates for Moscow city-council elections that took place on September 8.

Video of Ustinov's arrest appears to back up his claims, but the court refused to admit them as evidence.

Ustinov's imprisonment and harsh sentence sparked an outcry among the entertainment community, as well as from teachers, priests, and even some members of the Moscow city council.

Police and legal officials have been sharply criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during and after the protests, which drew some of the biggest crowds since demonstrations against election manipulation in 2011 and 2012.

Thousands of people were detained, and at least seven have been given prison terms in connection with the protests. Critics say the convictions have been overly harsh and an overt attempt to scare off others from joining the protests.

Ustinov credited the public outpouring for prompting the authorities to reduce his sentence and pledged to continue pushing to help the others who have been convicted.

"I have to support those guys," he told Current Time, "because they supported me. I can't stay away. The whole country stood up [for me], and now I am just sitting at home? No, that won't work."

Prosecutors appeared to acknowledge the unjust situation, noting at the start of the appeal hearing on September 26 that Ustinov's sentence was "too severe" and "the convict's reformation is possible without his isolation from society."

On September 20, amid protests challenging his conviction, Ustinov was released from custody by a court and ordered not to leave Moscow before his appeal was ruled upon.