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Moscow court sentences Ukrainian woman to 12 years for playing Ukrainian anthem and releasing balloons

Tuesday, 18 June 2024, 05:41
Moscow court sentences Ukrainian woman to 12 years for playing Ukrainian anthem and releasing balloons
Khrystyna Liubashenko. Photo: Mediazona

The Second Western District Military Court in Moscow has sentenced Ukrainian citizen Khrystyna Liubashenko to 12 years in prison for playing a recording of an anti-war statement and the Ukrainian anthem from the window of her apartment, as well as releasing balloons with a white, blue and white flag.

Source: Russian independent media outlet Mediazona

Details: A court sentenced a 35-year-old Ukrainian woman to 12 years in prison on 17 June, finding her guilty of spreading "fake news" about the war and participating in a terrorist organisation. 


The prosecutor had sought an even harsher sentence of 15 years, even though there were mitigating circumstances such as her lack of prior convictions, having small children and caring for her sick mother and grandfather. Meanwhile, her lawyer argued for the case to be dismissed due to a lack of evidence of criminal intent.

According to the investigation, on 8 May 2023, the Ukrainian woman placed speakers on the window of her rented apartment in the town of Dolgoprudny, near Moscow, and played recordings of an anti-war speech and the Ukrainian anthem. Authorities interpreted this as spreading "fake news" about the military (article 207.3.b and 207.3.d of the Criminal Code). 

Later that day, she took a taxi to Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) in Moscow and released balloons into the sky with a white, blue and white flag attached. Investigators saw this act as participation in a terrorist organisation (article 205.5.2 of the Criminal Code). Many Russian anti-war activists use the white, blue and white flag, but authorities consider it to be the Freedom of Russia Legion flag.


Liubashenko’s trial lasted only two days. 

Her lawyer, Lyudmila Posmitnaya, explained what happened to her client. Khrystyna Liubashenko lived in Kyiv with her mother, who is suffering from cancer, her grandfather with dementia and her two daughters. After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the family fled to Switzerland and was granted asylum there. However, they struggled financially. 

Liubashenko met a neighbour named Vitaly Yurchenko who posed as a refugee from Ukraine. According to her lawyer, he convinced her to travel to Moscow for money to conduct a "peaceful protest against the war": releasing blue and yellow balloons into the sky.

Yurchenko bought a one-way ticket for Liubashenko and rented the apartment in Dolgoprudny. He also closely monitored her movements and gave her instructions. 

Liubashenko arrived in Moscow on 5 May 2023. Following this, Yurchenko demanded that she set up speakers on the window of her apartment to play an anti-war speech. She stated that Yurchenko initially coerced her, threatening to report her daughters left in Switzerland to child services and have them placed in a children's home. Messages where Yurchenko allegedly blackmailed her are said to be part of the case files.

Liubashenko was forced to agree. She placed speakers in her apartment window on 8 May and then went to Vorobyovy Gory to release balloons. According to Yurchenko's plan, the balloons were supposed to carry a white, blue and white flag, which he called a peace flag. Liubashenko released white balloons with a piece of fabric attached and was promptly arrested.

During the trial, an operative from the Centre for Countering Extremism who detained Liubashenko was interrogated. According to the police officer, he had received advance information from his superiors about "someone organising a protest action" in Moscow. The defence emphasised that it remains unclear how the authorities knew the exact location and time of the action in advance, while the operative claimed it was a coincidence that they had spotted Liubashenko at Vorobyovy Gory.

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