Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russian Regional Lawmaker Who Criticized Putin Targeted In Hate-Speech Probe

Olga Li, regional lawmaker from Kursk
Olga Li, regional lawmaker from Kursk

Russian authorities have launched a hate-crime investigation against a regional lawmaker after she published a YouTube video accusing President Vladimir Putin of a "criminal conspiracy" against the Russian people.

Investigators in Russia's southern Kursk region said in an April 1 statement that a linguistic analysis of social-media texts and online videos posted by lawmaker Olga Li concluded that her language "is aimed at degrading the dignity" of government representatives.

If convicted, she could face up to two years in prison.

The editor of the independent local People's Journalist newspaper, Li grabbed national attention in early March when she circulated a video criticizing Putin and Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika for failing to respond to what she called endemic corruption among officials in the Kursk region.

In the nearly six-minute video, which had received more than 210,000 views on YouTube as of April 1, Li appears seated at a desk, speaking directly into the camera, wearing a Russian flag pin on her lapel.

WATCH: Olga Li Criticizes Vladimir Putin (no English subtitles)

Addressing Putin directly, she says his "foreign and domestic policy -- if you even have one -- has already led to the collapse of Russia's financial system and its destruction as a government ruled by law."

The regional branch of the federal Investigative Committee, Russia's top investigative body, said in its statement that the hate-speech allegations are based on videos and texts that Li posted online, including the popular Russian social media site VKontakte.

It is the second criminal case launched against Li, a 29-year-old independent who was elected to the Kursk regional legislature in 2011, since she published the critical video on her Vkontakte page and on YouTube on March 4.

Last week, the regional investigators accused her of libel for publishing allegations of corruption against senior regional officials in her newspaper last fall. The two separate cases will now be investigated together, the regional Investigative Committee said.

A Kursk news portal noted that Li has regularly criticized regional and federal officials but had never faced criminal investigations until she published the video attacking Putin.

Li told RFE/RL’s Russian Service on April 1 that she had yet to receive formal notification of the hate-speech investigation.

She said she and her lawyer would try to have the case moved out of the Kursk region because local law-enforcement authorities are "very biased" against her.

Li added that she will take the development "in [her] stride and depending on the situation" and that she has no intention of leaving Russia.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.