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Mykola Semena as been charged with separatism and may be sentenced to five years in prison if convicted for an article he wrote on his blog that was critical of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

A date has been set for the high-profile trial of journalist Mykola Semena in the Russian-controlled Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Semena's lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, told RFE/RL on February 8 that preliminary hearings into the case will be held by the Zaliznychnyy district court in Simferopol on February 17.

Kurbedinov said the actual trial for Semena, an RFE/RL contributor, will start on February 28.

Semena has been charged with separatism and may be sentenced to five years in prison if convicted for an article he wrote on his blog that was critical of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Semena denies the charges.

He is currently under a court order from occupying Russian officials that bars him from leaving Crimea and forces him to seek permission before traveling outside the region's capital, Simferopol.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have expressed concern over Semena's case, which activists say is part of a Russian clampdown on independent media and dissent in Crimea.

Amnesty International called the legislation "a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence, an issue the Russian government has long attempted to downplay."

Amnesty International says a new law that decriminalizes some forms of domestic violence in Russia poses a greater risk to women.

On February 7, President Vladimir Putin signed the law that categorizes as administrative offenses -- instead of criminal acts -- cases of domestic violence that result in pain but not bodily harm.

Supporters say the change is intended to prevent unwarranted interference by the state in domestic matters.

But Amnesty International on February 8 called the legislation "a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence, an issue the Russian government has long attempted to downplay."

The rights watchdog urged Russia to scrap "this abusive legislation and put together a comprehensive package of measures to address the vast scale of domestic violence in Russia once and for all."

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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