7 National Bolsheviks Are Convicted

Itar-TassMagomedov, second left, and Popkov, fourth left, and other National Bolsheviks attending their sentencing Monday.
The Tagansky District Court on Monday convicted seven activists of the banned National Bolshevik Party for their role in a 2006 scuffle they say was provoked by members of a pro-Kremlin youth group.

The court handed down relatively light sentences, ranging from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years in prison, despite the prosecutors' request that the activists be sentenced to three to five years, said Dmitry Agranovsky, a lawyer for three of the convicted National Bolsheviks.

"The main feeling was relief," Agranovsky said by telephone following the verdict. "It could have been a lot worse. But we will take our case to [the European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg because these activists are so obviously -- so obviously -- innocent."

The convicted National Bolsheviks -- Roman Popkov, Nazir Magomedov, Sergei Medvedev, Vladimir Titov, Yelena Borovskaya, Alexei Makarov and Dmitry Yelizarov -- have already served part of their sentences in pretrial detention after being arrested in 2006.

Following the sentencing, the activists were marched out of the courtroom and driven back to Pretrial Detention Center No. 2, commonly called Butyrka, near the Novoslobodskaya metro station, Agranovsky said.

The charges relate to an April 2006 incident outside the Tagansky District Court, which at that time was hearing a National Bolshevik complaint over the Justice Ministry's decision to ban the group for purported extremist activity.

National Bolshevik activists claim that they were ambushed outside the court by members of the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Russia, who pelted them with bottles and eggs. In the ensuing melee, the court ruled Monday, National Bolshevik activists and their unidentified opponents employed pepper spray, an offense classified as armed hooliganism, Agranovsky said.

Young Russia spokesman Rustam Ashrafov denied his group's involvement in the scuffle. "You will find that none of the pro-Kremlin movements will admit to having been there," he said. "That information is just not out there."

Alexander Averin, a spokesman for the National Bolsheviks, said the light sentences signified a de facto recognition by the judge of the activists' innocence, but that they would appeal the verdicts in order to clear their criminal records.

They will likely serve out their sentences in Butyrka, because they cannot be transferred from the facility to a prison until the appeals process is completed, Agranovsky said.

Several National Bolsheviks have fled to Ukraine recently to seek political asylum and avoid what they call fabricated criminal cases against them in Russia.

Anna Ploskonosova, head of the National Bolsheviks' Tula branch, said last week that she had applied for asylum in Ukraine because of trumped-up charges of assaulting a police officer.

Last month, Ukraine granted asylum to Olga Kudrina, who was facing prison time for a 2005 political stunt in which she hung an anti-Putin banner from the Rossiya Hotel, near the Kremlin. Another National Bolshevik activist, Mikhail Gangan, is currently awaiting a decision on his asylum application to Ukrainian authorities.

Agranovsky said he did not know whether any of the seven activists convicted Monday planned to seek political asylum abroad following their release.