Russia extends sentence of Stalinist purge investigator

A Russian court on Monday extended the prison sentence of an activist who investigated the Stalin-era crackdown to 15 years, but the defendant considers the charges fabricated.

Yuri Dmitriyev, 65, rose to prominence after discovering mass graves of victims of Stalinist repression. He was arrested on charges of sexual abuse of his adopted daughter, but human rights activists believe the accusations are politically motivated.

Dmitriyev was charged with creating child pornography, indecent acts and illegal possession of part of a weapon. He was acquitted in 2018, but the case was reopened a few months later.

In July 2020, he was found guilty of sexual assault on his daughter and sentenced to three and a half years in prison, a sentence that several months later was extended to 13 years. Beforehand he has spent five years behind bars.

On Monday, the sentence was extended again, to 15 years, by the court in the city of Petrozavodsk, in the Russian region of Karelia that borders Finland. Dmitriyev’s lawyers plan to appeal the ruling.

According to investigators, Dmitriyev was accused of creating pornographic material by taking nude photos of his daughter. During their first trial, the experts considered that the photos were not pornographic.

Dmitriyev used to run the Karelia branch of the Memorial Center for Human Rights, which recognizes him as a political prisoner. The European Union and several prominent cultural figures in Russia have urged Russian authorities to drop the charges.

The Memorial Center for Human Rights, a prominent group that studies and documents the political repression of the Soviet Union era, faces its closure in Russia for alleged failures to use the label of “external agent” in all its publications and for allegedly justifying The terrorism. The court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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