18 January 2024
The Cherepovets City Court has found human rights activist Gregory Marcus Severin Vinter (formerly Grigory Vinter) guilty of spreading “fake news” about the Russian army (Article 207.3, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code) and has sentenced him to three years in a general-regime penal colony, Sota reports.
The prosecutor had sought a sentence of six years and three months in a general-regime penal colony.
The criminal case against Vinter was brought in the autumn of 2022 for comments on VKontakte on a post about mass killings in Bucha and Irpen and the occupation of Mariupol.
“Your heart breaks when you look at photos and videos from Bucha and Irpen. Occupiers from Russia raped children and killed women they had raped, dumping them directly onto the road. They tried to burn the bodies…” Vinter wrote at the time.
In the autumn of 2022, Vinter spent a month and a half in Vologda Region Remand Prison No.2. Vinter spoke about the tough conditions on remand: the temperature in his cell dropped to 4-6 degrees overnight – Vinter has lost the hearing in one ear because of the low temperature.
On 19 October, the court placed Vinter under house arrest. Vologda politician Evgeny Domozhirov published a letter from Vinter, in which the activist reported that one of the police investigators had demanded that he write a statement saying that he was “degraded” [the lowest caste in the Russian prison hierarchy] and should be moved to an appropriate cell.
When Vinter declined, he was tortured with an electric shock device, beaten up several times and placed in solitary confinement.
As Sota notes, Gregory Vinter is a former regional coordinator of the For Human Rights movement. He has also helped members of the LGBT community. For example, he has spoken about the death on remand of Andrei Zobnikov, a gay man from Cherepovets. Before embarking on his human rights activities, Vinter was a paleontologist and an Interior Ministry officer.
The Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognised Vinter as a political prisoner pointing out that in 2019−2020 he was prosecuted for insulting a representative of the authorities, contempt of court and “fake news about corona virus”.
The Novaya Vkladka publication wrote that Vinter has nine cats and when the criminal case was brought against him he attempted to rehome them.
At the end of 2023, the Azerbaijan authorities deported Vinter’s adopted son, Khayal Vasilyev, who is accused of draft dodging.
The day before the verdict Vinter appealed to Putin, with a written request to allow him because of his diabetes to commit voluntary euthanasia in the event that he was given a substantial prison term. Vinter is afraid that he will not receive the necessary medicines in the penal colony.
“Real incarceration for me after surviving a stroke and clinical death during Covid, plus an attempt on my life in 2018 effectively amounts to an execution and, what’s more, to a public execution fraught with long-term suffering and a torturous departure from this life. This isn’t just 1937, it’s perverted pathological sadism, for which the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service is now famous the world over,” Vinter stated.
He brought a bag containing a large amount of medicine to his sentencing.
Earlier, a Russian government committee backed a legal initiative to confiscate the property of those convicted of “fake news” about the army and public encouragement of desertion.
Translated by Melanie Moore