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Russian-American sentenced in Russia for social media posts

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A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced a Russian-American to three and a half years in prison for criticizing Russia, its leaders and its war in Ukraine on social media.

Yuri Maleev, 60, who was identified in court as a security guard at MatchPoint Sports Center in Brooklyn, was arrested in Russia in December. The court said he was charged with “reviving Nazism” for two social media posts that “clearly disrespected society” and “insulted the memory of World War II” and its veterans. explain.

Mr. Malev, the court explainpleaded guilty and was sentenced in an expedited trial.

His lawyer and a relative said that while it is common in Russia for people who criticize the war and Russian officials to be prosecuted, Malev’s sentence was unusually harsh because he was a first-time offender.

Mr. Maleev is one of several U.S. citizens currently detained in Russia, including Evan Gershkovichreporter for The Wall Street Journal; Paul Whelana former U.S. Marine; Arsu Kurmashevaan editor working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Russia’s detention of U.S. citizens in recent years has sparked concerns that the Kremlin is trying to use U.S. citizens as leverage in exchange for Russian citizens held in the West.

Malev had expected a much more lenient sentence, according to his lawyer, Ruslan N. Aidamirov, who said he was “dismayed” by the court’s decision.

In a phone interview, Aydamirov said he believed the charges against Maleev were “not politically motivated” because he was not a political activist. He added that Maleev was charged after a Russian woman complained to police about his posts.

Malev, a graduate of the prestigious St. Petersburg University Law School, has lived in the United States since 1997, according to his uncle, Mark Lifshitz. He traveled to Russia every year but was arrested after the full-scale invasion by Ukrainian troops.

“He hid it from us,” Lifshitz said of the trip to Russia, adding that Maleev enjoyed spending time in Russia with old classmates and other friends. “He knew I wouldn’t let him go there.”

Lifshitz, 79, said Maleev, whom he described as a “shy and harmless” man, was “very worried” about the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Maleev has been in pretrial detention for nearly six months and will serve his sentence in a relatively lenient labor camp, but Mr. Lifshitz said he found it hard to imagine how Mr. Maleev, who had recently recovered from a serious illness, would endure the torture.

Lifshitz said he and his wife had wanted to go to Russia to support Malev, but their daughter “took their passports away” out of fear they would get into legal trouble there, too.

He said Malev’s family was shocked by the verdict, which was unexpected because Mr Malev had admitted his guilt.

“It’s horrible, horrible,” Mr. Lifshitz said.

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