Russia: Stalinism researcher Dmitriev convicted

Yuri Dmitriev, head of the human rights NGO Memorial in Karelia, has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison. In a trial that has dragged on since 2016 he was charged with sexually abusing his foster daughter. Dmitriev has brought mass murders committed in Karelia during the Stalin era to the public's attention. The trial is clearly politically motivated, observers conclude.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

An affront to all human rights activists

The state is trying to further deter critics and free thinkers, Radio Kommersant FM writes:

“Taking into account pre-trial detention he'll be released come November. In the current circumstances that amounts to an acquittal, given that the prosecution was calling for 15 years. This is likely a sort of compromise in view of the diffuse nature of the case: The representatives of the state are not offended and the public should jolly well calm down. ... Nevertheless this all looks very much like an attempt to compromise the entire human rights movement - especially the Memorial organisation, which is always getting in the way and sticking its nose where it shouldn't. The main goal is to stop people from trying to shine a light in dark corners and take a closer look at things that contradict the official version.”

Polityka (PL) /

A political prisoner

Polityka doubts that the historian is guilty:

“People are describing Dmitriev as a political prisoner. According to prominent cultural figures, including Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, the historian is being persecuted for his work. He has been researching Stalinist repression and also tracking down the graves of victims of the 'Great Terror' and trying to identify the victims since 1988.” (UA) /

Even more people will want to know the truth

The conviction is also significant for Ukraine since Dmitriev also investigated the shootings of Ukrainian opposition members, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba explains on the TV channel website

“This sentence directly affects us - it is a war against the truth about the history of Ukraine as part of the USSR. ... Yuri Dmitriev is a victim of the Russian state's desire to trample on historical memory and those who protect it. But its efforts will have the opposite effect. Even more people will want to know the truth. Not only about Dmitriev, but also about what he found buried in the earth and in the archives.”