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Trial opens for Russian teen accused of criticising army

By AFP

November 28, 2023 12:32 PM


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The trial of a Russian 18-year-old accused of spreading "false information" about Russia's military opened in a closed court session outside Moscow on Monday.

Maxim Lypkan, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, is one the youngest people to have been arrested and charged with violating Moscow's strict censorship laws on coverage of its full-scale military offensive on Ukraine.

Lypkan was arrested shortly after turning 18 in February, after he said he planned to stage a protest in Moscow against the Kremlin's military campaign in Ukraine.

Alan Kachmazov, Lypkan's lawyer, told AFP the case relates to statements made by Lypkan "about a maternity hospital ... which allegedly, according to Maxim, was bombed by the Russian military."

Moscow denies targeting civilians or hitting non-military targets during its offensive on Ukraine, despite several instances of civilian buildings in Ukrainian-held territory being destroyed in air strikes.

The United Nations says at least 10,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its offensive in February 2022.

Lypkan has publicly denounced Russia's actions on multiple occasions and took part in street protests that erupted in Moscow last February.

In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Liberty, he said: "I did not sleep when I saw the news about the war and I thought: what a war criminal Putin is, since he started this invasion."

Russian authorities have detained, imprisoned and fined thousands for speaking out against the actions in Ukraine -- handing down years-long prison sentences in several cases.

Apart from his parents, only one person came to support Maxim: 67-year-old pensioner Lyudmila Ivanova.

The pensioner told AFP she often attended the trials of people who protested the conflict in Ukraine.

"I come here both to support people and to feel supported myself," she said.

- 'We worry' -

"It is all very hard. When I attended a trial for the first time, I spent the following week (crying)", Ivanova said.

"Now it’s a little easier," she said, tearing up.

The teenager was not in the court for Monday's hearing as he was sent for treatment at a psychiatric hospital last week.

A psychiatric research centre run by Russia's health ministry has determined Lypkan has some mental health disorders and did not understand the possible consequences of his actions, Kachmazov said.

Lawyer Kachmazov told AFP he hopes the case will be thrown out after a psychological examination into his client's mental health.

"We hope that in view of this assessment and its conclusions, the criminal case will be terminated," Kachmazov said, though he could not disclose the details of the diagnosis.

Lawyer Antonina Levotchskaya said Lypkan reported altercations with his cellmates in the pre-trial detention centre where he is being held, and that his head was forcibly shaved.

Lypkan's mother, Yelena, told AFP she was "very concerned about Maxim."

"We worry for him," she said.

The Memorial human rights group has said Lypkan is a "political prisoner" and called for his immediate release.

The next audience is scheduled for Wednesday.


AFP


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