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Couple In Russia Handed Prison Terms For Actions Criticizing FSB, Pension Reform

A court in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk has handed prison terms to a couple who protested the arrest of a group of activists and criticized pension reform.

Pavel Chikov of the legal defense organization Agora wrote on his Telegram channel that the Central District court in the Ural's city on September 10 sentenced Dmitry Tsibukovsky to 2 1/2 years and his wife, Anastasia Safonova, to two years in prison.

Prosecutors had sought six years in prison for each defendant.

Tsibukovsky and Safonova, who are self-declared anarchists, were initially arrested in 2018 after they placed a large banner with the words "FSB -- Main Terrorist” outside the building of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Chelyabinsk. The FSB is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

Tsibukovsky and Safonova were seeking to express solidarity with a group of activists arrested in 2017-18 for allegedly creating a terrorist group called Set (Network), with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

Last year, nine members of the group were convicted of terrorism and handed lengthy prison terms.

Amnesty International has called the terror charges "a figment of the Russian security services' imagination...fabricated in an attempt to silence these activists."

The London-based human rights watchdog maintains the case is “the latest politically motivated abuse of the justice system to target young people.”

The government’s case against Tsibukovsky and Safonova was thrown out twice after investigators failed to prove elements of a crime in the couple’s actions.

Tsibukovsky said that he and Safonov were tortured while in custody.

The couple was later charged with vandalism for graffiti that protested against unpopular pension reforms passed in 2018.

They were arrested again in April 2020 and spent four months in pretrial detention before they were transferred to house arrest.

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