On February 10, the Volga District Military Court sentenced seven defendants convicted of membership in the so-called “Set” (Network) terrorist group to between six and 18 years in prison. The suspects (more than half a dozen leftist activists) were found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks during Russia’s presidential election and FIFA World Cup in 2018 with the supposed aim of creating public unrest and overthrowing the government. Investigators built their case mostly on confessions signed by the suspects, several of whom say they were tortured, beaten, and otherwise pressured while in the custody of the Federal Security Service.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Vladimir Putin is familiar with the case, but said the president is unable to interfere in the work of Russia’s law-enforcement officials. “The president has repeatedly dealt with this situation and repeatedly instructed [officials] to check everything carefully for compliance with the law. In this case, any other interference in the actions of the investigating authorities is impossible, especially on the part of the head of state,” Peskov said.
In early February, the defendants’ relatives wrote an open letter to President Putin asking him to turn his attention to the case, arguing that the evidence was falsified and the charges were unfounded.