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Moscow court sentences prominent independent journalist Sergey Smirnov to 25 days in jail

On Wednesday, February 3, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court sentenced Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov to 25 days administrative arrest. This was reported by his lawyer, Fyodor Shirosh, from the human rights organization Apologia Protesta. Shirosh added that he plans to challenge the court’s ruling. 

Police officers in Moscow arrested Smirnov outside his home on Saturday, January 30, while he was on a walk with his young son. Smirnov spent several hours in police custody before being allowed to return home to his family pending trial. 

Smirnov was accused of repeatedly violating the rules for holding public events (article 20.2, section 8 of the Russian Administrative Code). These charges came in response to a post he made on social media on January 20. Smirnov retweeted a joke about his resemblance to Russian rock musician Dmitry Spirin — the tweet included a picture that contained the time and date of a rally in support of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

The picture, included in the Tweet above, reads “Dmitry Spirin for Navalny. January 23, 14:00.”

According to the police, Smirnov’s retweet constituted a call to “an unlimited number of participants to take part in the unauthorized rally on January 23,” writes Mediazona. That said, the picture didn’t actually contain any calls for protests, nor did it include the planned location of the demonstration.

Apologia Protesta notes that the report on Smirnov was drawn up by the same anti-extremism operative who reported Anna Vellikok, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail for retweeting a post about the January 23 rally (the original tweet was posted by Vellikok’s friend Georgy Alburov, who works for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation). 

Sergey Smirnov and his lawyer Fyodor Sirosh at the courthouse on February 3

Initially, it was reported that Smirnov was accused of participating in the demonstration on January 23, though he himself claimed that he was home that day, covering the protests remotely. Smirnov later attributed the confusion to conflicting reports from the police.

Following his arrest on January 30, more than 30 media outlets expressed their support for Sergey Smirnov, including Meduza. After that, Smirnov was released from police custody under obligation to appear in court. 

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Editorial: Meduza stands with Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov

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Editorial: Meduza stands with Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov

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