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Yury Kartyzhev is the first person to be convicted under a controversial new law penalizing "disrespect toward the authorities." (file photo)

Yury Kartyzhev has been convicted of "insulting human dignity" and expressing "disrespect" toward "organs of state power" after he called Russian President Vladimir Putin an obscene word online. He's the first person to be convicted under the newly amended law.

He's not exactly contrite.

"Some people say that Putin raised Russia from its knees," Kartyzhev told RFE/RL in an interview. "He didn't lift anything, we just have oil and gas. Put a monkey [in the president's office], it will be better than this Putin."

"How can I be silent? I will continue to speak out…. If we will be silent they will kill us little by little," he said.

Kartyzhev spoke to RFE/RL on April 24, one day after he was fined 30,000 rubles ($463) by a court in the Russian city of Chudovo.

The court found him guilty of making posts on his VKontakte web page on March 31 that insulted "human dignity and public morality" and expressed "a clear disrespect toward society, the state, and organs of state power in Russia."

"I am not denying that I wrote it," he told Current Time. "I did write [an obscene word but mostly] with dots [instead of letters]: 'Putin is an incredible f...wit.'"

The 34-year-old Kartyzhev, an unemployed machinist, added: "This is my legitimate position [to write] with dots. I have the right to write."

The court said those posts on the most popular social-media site in Russia violated Article 20.1, part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code, which was amended in late March in a move that was widely criticized by international rights organizations.

Pavel Chikov, head of the legal-aid group Agora, said Kartyzhev was the first person in Russia to be convicted and fined under the recent amendments to that law.

'Genocide...Against The Russian Nation'

But if Russian officials thought the draconian law was going to curb Kartyzhev's criticism of the government, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

"We are killing our own pensioners.... People who have spent 40 years at work receive 7,000 [rubles] ($108) -- official salary [per month]," Kartyzhev told RFE/RL. "They have to pay for medicine, for apartment [utilities], and 3,000 [rubles] for food. No one could live on that. They are carrying out genocide...against the Russian nation."

Kartyzhev said he is a supporter of Communist Party lawmaker Nikolai Bondarenko because he carried out an experiment in which he tried to live on 3,500 rubles for one month. But he also professed an affinity for Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny.

"I think Navalny is doing a good job, opening people's eyes so they wake up to realize that the people have the power," he said. "What are we afraid of?"

Kartyzhev, who said he will appeal his case to the European Court of Human Rights, pledged to continue to write critical posts of Russian officials.

Kartyzhev's plight has also inspired the creation of a social media flash mob in support of his case.

And although he vowed he would pay just 30 rubles of his 30,000 ruble fine, Kartyzhev later posted a picture of his bank card on his VKontakte webpage asking readers to send him money so he could pay his fine.

Written by Pete Baumgartner based on reporting by RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Mark Krutov and Current Time.
British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (file photo)

Britain has rejected a prisoner-swap proposal by Iran's foreign minister, calling it a "vile" diplomatic maneuver.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on April 25 said "what is unacceptable about what Iran is doing is that they are putting innocent people in prison and using it as leverage."

The previous day, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested a swap between Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen who is in prison in Tehran after being convicted of sedition, and Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian citizen being held in Australia on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the idea was "almost impossible" and not the "way forward."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was visiting relatives in Iran when she was arrested in 2016. She was accused of antigovernment activities and sentenced to five years in prison.

Ghodskani was arrested in 2017 after the United States accused her of seeking restricted U.S. communications technology by posing as an employee of a Malaysian company.

The United States believes she intended to transfer the technology to an Iranian firm.

Hurt said there was a "huge difference" between the two cases.

"The woman in jail in Australia is facing due process, a proper legal procedure, and she is alleged to have committed a very serious crime," he said. "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is innocent -- she has done nothing wrong."

Based on reporting by AFP

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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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