Three brothers each given 17 years in jail for seeking to join Freedom of Russia Legion — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Three brothers each given 17 years in jail for seeking to join Freedom of Russia Legion

Ioann, Alexey and Timofey Ashcheulov during the court hearing. Photo: SOTAvision

Ioann, Alexey and Timofey Ashcheulov during the court hearing. Photo: SOTAvision

Three sons of a priest from central Russia’s Lipetsk region have been handed 17-year prison sentences by a military court for attempting to join a Ukrainian-based paramilitary organisation, Russian independent outlet Mediazona reported on Wednesday.

Ioann, Alexey and Timofey Ashcheulov were charged with attempting to join the Freedom of Russia Legion, a battalion composed of Russian volunteer soldiers fighting for Ukraine, which the Russian government has designated as a terrorist organisation.

The three men were detained last July while attempting to cross the border from Russia into Ukraine in order to join the volunteer legion, according to investigators. The oldest brother Ioann was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison, while Alexey and Timofey were given 17 years each.

During their arrest, law enforcement seized one of the brother’s phones, which contained correspondence between Ioann and a representative from the battalion. The same brother had also contacted the I Want to Live project, a state-funded Ukrainian organisation created to assist Russian soldiers surrender to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, to find the safest route across the border.

The brothers were found guilty of attempted treason, conspiracy to illegally cross the Russian border, and attempted participation in a terrorist organisation. Despite making a full confession at the beginning of the investigation, they pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“I will treat this as the price for not being complicit in the crimes committed by our country’s government, for retaining my own freedom,” Ioann said.

During their final interrogations, Ioann declared that they would not provide any testimony during the proceedings, requesting only that they be allowed to make a final statement and that they be held in the same facility during their sentence.

Their father, Igor Ashcheulov, a priest from Lipetsk, attended the trial and maintained that his sons were “the best people” he knew, and suggested that they had been coerced into making their initial confessions, Russian state-affiliated daily Kommersant reported.

“I will treat this as the price for not being complicit in the crimes committed by our country’s government, for retaining my own freedom,” Ioann said during his final statement.

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