Russian Activist Released From Prison After Serving Five Years In High-Profile 'Network' Case

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A Russian activist has ben released from prison after serving more than five years in prison in the high-profile Set (Network) case that rights defenders and opposition activities have called "fabricated."

Yulian Boyarshinov left Correctional Colony No. 7 in the town of Segezha in Russia's northwest early in the morning on April 21.

Boyarshinov, who is from Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, and several other activists were arrested in 2017.

Russian investigators said the Network group planned to organize a series of explosions in Russia during the presidential election and the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 "to destabilize the situation" in the country and to organize an armed mutiny.

Rights activists have said the charges are false, while some of those arrested have claimed they were tortured while in custody. The Investigative Committee has rejected the claims.

In June 2020, a court in St. Petersburg sentenced Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov to 5 1/2 and seven years in prison, respectively. Boyarshinov’s sentence was later cut by three months.

In February 2020, a court in another Russian city, Penza, sentenced seven other activists of the group to prison terms of between six years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorism.

The group members were arrested in 2017 and 2018 for allegedly creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

Belarusian authorities told RFE/RL at the time that they weren’t aware of a Network cell existing in Belarus.

Amnesty International has called the terror charges "a figment of the Russian security services' imagination...fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists."

The London-based human rights watchdog maintains the case is “the latest politically motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people.”