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63-year-old man gets seven year prison sentence for posting about war

A Moscow district court sentenced 63-year-old Mikhail Simonov to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of spreading “fakes” about the Russian army motivated by political hatred.

According to the legal aid group Net Freedoms Project, the basis of the case against Simonov are two posts he made on Russian social network VKontakte about the bombing of Kyiv and the Mariupol Drama Theater. Mediazona reports that the comments read: “Women and children murdered, and we’re singing songs on Channel One. Russia, we have become shameless. God forgive us,” and “Russian pilots are bombing children.”

According to the prosecution, Simonov’s posts “misled readers regarding the legality of the actions of Russia’s armed forces, undermined their authority, and discredited them, since, according to the Ministry of Defense, information about the murder of civilians by the Russian military does not correspond to reality.”

The authorities opened the case against Simonov after Anna Gel, who stumbled on his posts “incidentally,” filed an appeal. Gel has said she decided to contact the police because Simonov’s words contradicted the Ministry of Defense’s reports, and because she “doesn’t like,” on principle, when people criticize the state they live in.

A second witness, Natalia Plotnikova, also discovered Simonov’s posts “accidentally.” According to independent news outlet SotaVision, she got angry when she saw a “pile of total liberalism” on her timeline. During the examination, the woman burst into tears and said she did not believe the Russian military was committing crimes.

News outlet Mediazona reports that posts from 2020, in which Simonov criticized Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, were attached to the case. “Two tyrants have agreed to destroy Belarus. But no, it won’t work, we Russians won’t let it, Crimea and Donetsk are enough for us,” reads one of Simonov’s posts from that time. The prosecutor believes these posts confirm the existence of Simonov’s “political hatred.”

According to SotaVision, Simonov partially confessed his guilt. In his closing remarks he said that he grew up in the family of a soldier, a World War II veteran, so he “simply could not have any negative attitude [about the army].” He also said that his worldview was strongly influenced by his mother, who survived the Siege of Leningrad, and who hoped that World War II would be the last war. “I was driven only by the understanding that human life is priceless,” he said of his posts.

Mikhail Simonov had lived in Belarus for the past few years. He returned to Russia on business in November 2022 and was immediately arrested.

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