Russian political activist Anastasia Shevchenko handed 4 year suspended sentence for membership of banned oligarch-linked group

A court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don has given an opposition campaigner a lengthy suspended sentence over her role in the activities of a proscribed political organization set up by a disgraced former oligarch.

Anastasia Shevchenko was sentenced to four years’ probation by a judge at the Oktyabrsky District Court on Thursday. During the trial, prosecutors had asked for her to be jailed for a total of five years.

The activist was accused of being a member of the UK-based branch of Open Russia, listed as an undesirable organization by the Russian Ministry of Justice. Investigators said that she spoke at debates and participated in a rally as part of her role with the organizations, as well as attending seminars and regional meetings as a member of the group.

Shevchenko denies this, and claims she was a member of a Russian-based organization of the same name, set up in Moscow. She was first arrested in January 2019, and has since been living under house arrest.

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Open Russia was founded in 2001 by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once among the country’s wealthiest men. In 2017, it was barred under legislation that allows officials to recognize organizations as undesirable if they believe they are working to destabilize the political situation. However, it still operates a wide network of affiliated organizations.

A staunch critic of the Kremlin, Khodorkovsky was jailed on fraud charges, spending around a decade behind bars before leaving Moscow for London. His Yukos oil and gas empire collapsed shortly after his arrest, facing a multibillion-dollar tax bill. The businessman and his associates had previously picked up the former state enterprise for a fraction of its worth in what one commentator called “the swindle of the century.”

A long-running legal case over the collapsed industrial giant is now raging in the Netherlands, with a $50 billion settlement hanging in the balance.

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