Nikita Tushkanov, a teacher from Russia’s Komi Republic, has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison on charges of “justifying terrorism” for a social media post about the bombing of the Crimean bridge, according to a report by Sota. Tushkanov was also issued a two-year ban on administering online websites.
“I feel excited, like before a first date. Some sort of real sentence is to be expected,” Tushkanov told the media outlet before the verdict was read out.
The prosecution had initially requested that Tushkanov be sentenced to six years in prison. The criminal case against the former school teacher was heard in one session.
Independent news website Mediazona published Tushkanov's last statement in court, which he delivered the day before:
“I have loved and continue to love my homeland [to this day], but my love has changed due to the way my country has behaved toward its citizens (including [WWII] veterans, leaving them on the sidelines of life) and in the international arena.
While still part of a [volunteer search group looking for the Soviet war dead], I realized that war is beautiful only during parades, but in reality it is only death. And all the truth about the war can be told by those whose remains I carried out of the forests and swamps. War is a crime, and its unleashing is a crime that has no excuse.
I do not accept, do not approve of, and have an exclusively negative attitude toward terrorist activities. I have not made any calls for terrorist activities. The bridge has been used by the Russian Armed Forces since it was opened. The bridge serves as a military logistic chain in the war with Ukraine. Thus, the damage to the bridge cannot be recognized as a terrorist act.
While they have recognized the bombing of the Crimean bridge as an act of terrorism by Ukraine, the Russian authorities themselves have continuously launched missile attacks against Ukraine. The world is on the brink of nuclear war, and it all started with the actions of the Russian Armed Forces and the commander-in-chief [Vladimir Putin] personally.
In the soul of every person, there is a front line. The hearts of millions of Russians are on the line of fire. We are all now in a state of mental civil war, and it was the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, the Federation Council, the Security Council and the State Duma who unleashed it.”
The Memorial human rights project recognized Tushkanov as a political prisoner in March this year. “We believe that the words incriminated against Tushkanov under Article 205.2 of the Russian Criminal Code as ‘justifying terrorism’ cannot be considered as encouraging anyone to commit acts of a terrorist nature. His prosecution under this article continues the state campaign of ‘cleansing’ of dissidents, and is a reaction to his anti-war statements,” read a statement from the human rights defenders.
A court in Komi’s captal Syktyvkar arrested Tushkanov in December last year. Before his arrest, Tushkanov’s home was searched by local police.
On October 10, 2022, Tushkanov posted a photo of the destruction after rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities with the caption: “Putin's fascism takes revenge for the Crimean bridge.” He also called the explosion on the Kerch Bridge “a birthday present for Putler.”
In March 2021, Tushkanov was fired from the school where he taught history after holding a picket and publishing online posts in support of political prisoners. Tushkanov’s dismissal order claimed that he had committed “immoral misconduct.”