Kremlin critic jailed over Ukraine war 'fake news'

STORY: Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin was jailed for eight and a half years on Friday (December 9) on charges of spreading "false information" about the army.

He was tried by a Moscow court over a YouTube video released in April in which he discussed evidence uncovered by Western journalists of Russian atrocities in Bucha, near Kyiv.

He cast doubt on the Kremlin line that such reports were fabricated as a "provocation" against Russia.

After listening with a defiant smile to the verdict, he says: "Don't worry. It will all end soon."

Moscow has intensified its clampdown on public dissent since invading Ukraine in February.

Most prominent opposition figures are in jail or exile.

Days after the invasion, legislation was passed providing for jail terms of up to 15 years for disseminating "false information" about the military.

Yashin's lawyer Maria Eysmont said they'd appeal the sentence, which was longer than expected.

"The prosecutors haven't proven that the information he conveyed was a lie or that it was deliberately wrongful, or that his motivation, as they say, was political hatred."

Posting on Telegram, Yashin urged his supporters to keep opposing the war in Ukraine.

"We have no reason to be sad," he wrote. "You and I have won this trial, friends."

Yashin rose to prominence during a wave of anti-Kremlin protests in 2011-12.

Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny slammed the verdict as "shameless and lawless" in a post on his Twitter account, which is managed by his team in exile.

"Russia will be free and so will you," he wrote of his friend and ally.

Julia Petrova was among supporters who chanted "freedom" outside the court.

"What can I say? We all should be promised that this regime will end before Ilya Yashin completes his sentence, much earlier, or our country will not last."

Yashin was elected head of a Moscow district council in 2017 and has been blocked from standing for higher office.

President Vladimir Putin, asked about the case at a news conference, said it was unacceptable to question a court decision.