Russian journalist handed corrective labour for 'fake news' about army
By Andrew Osborn
LONDON (Reuters) - Russian freelance journalist Andrei Novashov was handed an eight-month corrective labour sentence on Monday after being convicted of knowingly distributing false information about the Russian army, his former employer said.
Siberia.Realities, a local project of U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe which Russian authorities have designated a "foreign agent", said a court in the Siberian region of Kemerovo had handed down the guilty verdict.
The report said Novashov, who worked for Siberia.Realities in the past, had also been barred from posting any material online for a year on top of the corrective labour punishment.
The court could not be immediately reached for comment. Novashov denied wrongdoing and Siberia.Realities said his lawyer would appeal Monday's verdict.
Novashov was reported to have been found guilty of discrediting the army for four posts on social media, plus a repost of an article which accused Russian forces of shelling civilian infrastructure in their campaign to capture the Ukrainian city of Mariupol last year.
Russia says it goes to great lengths to avoid injuring civilians in what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.
Moscow, which is currently in the process of rebuilding parts of Mariupol, blamed Ukrainian forces for the destruction of the port city, saying they had fired on Russian forces from housing blocks, an allegation Kyiv rejected, accusing Russia of devastating the once thriving population centre.
Another Russian journalist, Maria Ponomarenko, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony last month for accusing the Russian air force of bombing a theatre in Mariupol last April where women and children were sheltering.
Moscow blamed its destruction on Ukrainian nationalists, an assertion Kyiv and Amnesty International rejected.
Russia introduced sweeping wartime censorship laws shortly after ordering tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine a year ago.
"Discrediting" the army can currently be punished by up to five years in prison, while spreading deliberately false information about it can attract a 15-year jail sentence.
Russia's lower house of parliament this month gave its initial backing to a law that would bring in longer prison sentences and extend the legislation to cover the Wagner mercenary force.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Hugh Lawson)