Siberian blogger jailed after criticising Russia’s military intervention in Syria

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A blogger has been imprisoned in Russia after he spoke out against Russian intervention in the Syrian war.

Aleksei Kungurov, a blogger from Siberia, was sentenced to two and half years in a prison colony over a October 2015 blog post that was highly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Kungurov had also argued that the Islamic State group [IS] had the characteristics of an actual government and that it had provided its citizens with infrastructure and social welfare.

He also said that Putin’s intervention was an attempt to save ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and crush rebel groups – not “terrorists”.

Local media had cited that Kungurov expressed “support for terrorism.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] slammed Russian authorities for the conviction and expressed concern over an escalating crackdown on free speech online.

“We call on Russian authorities in Tyumen to immediately release Aleksei Kungurov and drop all charges against him,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator.

“Since the Kremlin’s control over traditional media is nearly absolute, blogs have become an important platform in Russia for independent reporting, analysis, commentary, debate, and information-sharing. Now authorities are contracting that space as well.”

Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria in September 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad, with its special forces also operating on the ground in the country.

Anger has been brewing over Russia’s role in the war, which figures in September said had cost more than 10,000 Syrian lives.

On Monday, the Russian ambassador to Ankara was assassinated in the Turkish capital by an off-duty police officer, purportedly in reprisal for Russia’s bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

On Thursday, a Russian military court sentenced a 21-year-old student who tried to enter Syria after falling in love with an IS fighter to four and a half years in prison.

Varvara Karaulova was detained last year as she tried to cross into war-torn Syria while still a philosophy undergraduate at the renowned Moscow State University.