MOSCOW -- Yevgeny Urlashov -- a former Yaroslavl mayor and rare example of a Russian opposition politician in public office -- has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison on corruption charges he says are trumped up.
A district court in the city located 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow found Urlashov guilty of taking a bribe of 17 million rubles ($255,000) and of extorting another during his one-year tenure as mayor.
Urlashov protested his innocence throughout the trial. Asked by the judge if he understood his sentence, Urlashov replied, "No."
The anticorruption activist was applauded in the courtroom.
As he was led away by police, he shouted: "I was condemned because I spat in the face of [the ruling party] United Russia!"
"All revolutionaries have been in jail!" he added.
The court ordered Urlashov to pay a 60 million-ruble ($900,000) fine and sentenced Urlashov’s aide, Aleksei Lopatin, to seven years in prison.
The court found former Deputy Mayor Dmitry Donskov, who had been held under house arrest, not guilty.
Ksenia Karpinskaya, Urlashov’s lawyer, told TASS that the verdict and sentence would be appealed. Prosecutors, who had asked for a harsher 15-year sentence for Urlashov and a fine of 500 million rubles, also said they planned to appeal.
Urlashov was arrested on July 3, 2013 -- just over a year after his landslide victory at mayoral polls in the city of 600,000. Masked security forces were seen detaining the mayor in video broadcast on state television networks.
Urlashov was a member of the Civic Platform opposition party led by tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov. Shortly before his arrest, he had said he intended to run for governor of Yaroslavl Oblast.
The rise of Urlashov, who secured nearly 70 percent of the vote in his bid for mayor, appeared to suggest an anti-Kremlin mood spreading to regional towns after mass opposition rallies broke out in Moscow and other major cities in December 2011.
Opposition parties of different stripes had rallied around Urlashov's bid for Yaroslavl mayor as a way of upstaging Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party -- and creating an opposition beachhead in the regions.
At the time, Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister and staunch Putin critic, wrote that "the road to the Kremlin is through Yaroslavl."