Russian Vlogger Gets Suspended Sentence; Amnesty Decries Crackdown Ahead Of Parliamentary Vote

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

MOSCOW -- A well-known Russian video blogger and political activist has been handed a five-year suspended prison sentence for an online post that criticized the government and urged people to attend unsanctioned anti-government rallies.

Nikolai Platoshkin was also fined 700,000 rubles ($9,500) by a Moscow court on May 19 in what human rights defenders denounced as part of the authorities' "harsher" crackdown aimed at silencing critical views ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

A former diplomat, Platoshkin was placed under house arrest in June after investigators charged him with calling for unsanctioned rallies and mass disorder. He pleaded not guilty.

Platoshkin, 55, tried to get elected to parliament's lower chamber as a candidate for the Communist Party in the past. He is well-known for his pro-communist views. Between 1987 and 2006, he worked at diplomatic missions in Germany and the United States.

More recently, he has headed a political movement called For A New Socialism. His YouTube commentaries on Russian politics have garnered thousands of views.

Amnesty International has recognized Platoshkin as a prisoner of conscience, calling the sentence against him "another nail in the coffin for the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Russia."

"The case was clearly fabricated to prevent him from participating in public life and punish him for daring to criticize Putin's stranglehold on power," Amnesty's Moscow director, Natalya Zviagina, said in a statement.