5 years of forced labor for expressing an opinion in Russia

5-year forced labor sentence for criticizing the Ukraine war

  • Published on
    April 22, 2024
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    Forced Labor
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In a recent ruling by the Moscow city courts service, a 39-year-old Russian man, Yuri Kokhovets, was sentenced to five years of forced labor for disseminating what authorities deemed “deliberately false information” regarding the Russian military during an interview with U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) about the conflict in Ukraine.

During the interview with RFE/RL journalists in July 2022, Kokhovets expressed opinions critical of the Russian government’s involvement in the conflict.

“Of course we need (a de-escalation), but it all depends on our government. It is our government that started it all… It is Russia who created all these problems.”

Kokhovets also denied any aggressive intentions from NATO and alleged that Russian forces had committed unjustified killings of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

Punished for expressing oneself

Kohhovets isn’t the first to be arrested for criticizing the Russian government.

Reuters reports,

Kokhovets was first detained by authorities for alleged “hooliganism” in March last year and later charged under sweeping wartime censorship laws that Russia passed shortly after launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Since then at least 19,855 people have been detained in Russia for expressing anti-war views, according to rights group OVD-Info.

Russia’s reliance on forced labor

The Global Slavery Index 2023 places Russia 8th globally for prevalence of modern slavery. In addition to forcing Ukrainians to support their war effort by digging trenches for soldiers, Russia has been beefing up their prison industrial complex.

According to one think tank, Russia’s economy has been suffering with the war on Ukraine not helping as people migrate if they can and the unemployment rate rising rapidly. To compensate, the government has been integrating prison labor and the domestic economy – with lucrative results. Data from the Russian Finance Ministry revealed that in 2022, the federal budget received a staggering 19.1 billion rubles ($192.4 million) from the forced labor performed by incarcerated persons for state and private companies – a substantial increase from the 8.8 billion rubles ($89.4 million) in 2016.

Take action against prison slavery

The latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report found that 1 in 7 cases of forced labor is state-imposed with 9 million people forced to work by the state at any point in time – over half of which are cases involving some form of prison labor.

The Freedom United community takes a strong stance against forced labor – no exceptions. That’s why we’re campaigning against forced labor detention camps in the Uyghur Region of China and against forced labor in American prisons. Join us and take action today!

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