Ukrainian pensioner jailed for social media ‘likes’

An elderly woman was sentenced to five years behind bars over sharing posts about Russia’s actions

A woman in Ukraine’s northern Chernigov Region was slapped with a jail term of five years over simultaneously justifying, denying and glorifying Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine, the local media reported on Friday, citing a court decision. The woman was prosecuted over “liking” and sharing posts on a social media platform, which is popular in Russia.

According to the court’s documents, the defendant, whose identity was not made public, “liked” three posts on the ‘Odnoklassniki’ website. Banned in Ukraine, the platform is popular in Russia and some other former Soviet republics, particularly among the older population.

The posts in question included a social media post, a video published by Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper and a “text and graphic material glorifying” the actions of the Russian forces in Ukraine. The woman also used a function that made all the posts she liked automatically reposted by her account, making them visible for her 178 social media friends, the court said.

At the court hearing, the defendant made a full confession and asked the judge not to punish her particularly harshly. She also said she was acting “under the influence of political shows” and did not understand in time that she was committing a crime.

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The woman’s age was not revealed by the Ukrainian judicial authorities either. The court documents only state that she was an elderly person with no prior criminal records. Apart from sentencing her to a jail time, the judge also ordered confiscation of the woman’s mobile phone and a notebook and demanded she pay the court expenses amounting to 18,122 hryvnas ($491).

The sanctions against a number of Russian websites, such as Odnoklassniki, were imposed by Ukraine’s former president, Pyotr Poroshenko, in 2017. The ban was then extended by President Vladimir Zelensky. Prior to the ban, around 24 million people – more than half of the country’s population – used Russian sites.

In January 2022, roughly a month before the conflict between Kiev and Moscow broke out, a Ukrainian man was slapped with a fine amounting to $350 over liking a post calling for the overthrow of the government in Kiev. The Ukrainian prosecutors charged him with undermining national security.

Over the course of the ongoing conflict with Russia, Kiev has further tightened its grip on the media, internet, and politics, rolling out multiple highly-restrictive laws. In December 2022, it adopted its controversial, long-debated media law, which was slammed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)as carrying “systemic problems for democracy.”

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