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Trial Of Two Defendants In High-Profile Russian 'Network' Case Postponed Over Coronavirus

Viktor Filinkov (left) and Yuly Boyarshinov in court went on trial in late February. (file photo)
Viktor Filinkov (left) and Yuly Boyarshinov in court went on trial in late February. (file photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The high-profile trial of two activists from a group known as "Set'" (Network) charged with terrorism in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokeswoman for St. Petersburg's courts, Daria Lebedeva, told RFE/RL on April 21 that the trial had been postponed indefinitely until restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus are lifted,

Viktor Filinkov and Yuly Boyarshinov went on trial in late February. Opposition figures and rights defenders have called the case against the group "fabricated."

Earlier in February, a court in another Russian city, Penza, sentenced seven other activists of the group to prison terms of between six years and 18 years after convicting them of terrorism.

The group members were arrested in October 2017 for allegedly creating a terrorist group with cells in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Penza, and Omsk, as well as in neighboring Belarus.

Belarusian authorities told RFE/RL in February that they weren’t aware of a "Network" cell existing in Belarus.

Mikalay Karpenkau, head of the department for fighting organized crime and corruption at the Belarusian Interior Ministry, said that such "information is fake."

Russian investigators said the group planned to organize a series of bomb attacks in Russia during the presidential election and the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 "to destabilize the situation" in the country and to organize an armed mutiny.

Rights activists have said the charges are false, while some of those arrested have claimed they were tortured while in custody. The Investigative Committee has rejected the claims.

Amnesty International 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 has called the case “the latest politically-motivated abuse of the [Russian] justice system to target young people.”

Two other activists initially arrested in the case, Igor Shishkin and Yegor Zorin, made deals with the investigators and testified against the others.

Shishkin received 3 1/2 years in prison in January 2019, while the case against Zorin was closed in September 2018.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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