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Russian Authorities 'Scared,' Says Convicted Crimean Tatar Activist

Suleyman Kadyrov appears at his trial in Fedocia court on March 1.
Suleyman Kadyrov appears at his trial in Fedocia court on March 1.

FEODOSIA, Ukraine -- A court in Russian-controlled Crimea has handed a suspended sentence of two years to a Crimean Tatar activist who opposes Moscow's rule over the Ukrainian region.

The Feodosia city court on March 1 found Suleyman Kadyrov guilty of publicly calling for the violation of Russia's territorial integrity.

The court also barred Kadyrov from "public activities" for one year, a sentence that prevents him from taking part in demonstrations.

Kadyrov vowed to appeal the verdict, which he said was "yet another proof that [the Russian authorities] are scared."

The charge stems from Kadyrov's 2016 Facebook post of a video about a pro-Ukrainian volunteer military unit and a comment in which he wrote, "Crimea was, is, and will always be Ukraine!"

Kadyrov pleaded not guilty, arguing that he has the right to express his opinion.

He said on March 1 that he expected the sentence against him.

"This is Russia. Its justice system has always been and will be dependent on the special services," Kadyrov said.

"It is not only about me; it is about all other political prisoners. We will go through all levels of this Russian 'injustice' system and turn to the European Court of Human Rights," he added.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they call a campaign of oppression targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar minority and others who opposed Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014.

The majority of Crimean Tatars opposed the Russian takeover of their historic homeland.

In March 2017, the European Parliament called on Russia to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens it said were in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.