Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko has been jailed for six years for posting on social media about a deadly attack by Russian warplanes on a theatre in Ukraine.
The court in Barnaul in Siberia found her guilty of spreading “fake news” under laws introduced aimed at stifling dissent about the invasion of Ukraine.
She was also barred from activities as a journalist for five years.
Hundreds of civilians died when the Mariupol theatre was bombed last March.
Ponomarenko was detained last April, weeks after the bombing, for posting that Russian warplanes had carried out the attack even though the Russian defense ministry had denied it.
She is among a growing number of Russian dissidents jailed for criticizing the war in Ukraine.
Some 1,200 civilians were seeking shelter inside the theatre when it was bombed by Russian fighter jets. Ukrainian authorities believe 300 people were killed, but an Associated Press investigation said the number was closer to 600. Many of the bodies were found in the basement.
Amnesty International said it was a war crime carried out by Russian forces. The international monitoring group OSCE said it had not received any indication to back up Russian allegations that a Ukrainian battalion had blown up the theatre.
Prosecutors said Maria Ponomarenko had committed a criminal offense after the invasion by spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian armed forces.
Addressing the court ahead of her sentence, she stressed that under Russia’s constitution, she had done nothing wrong: “Had I committed a real crime, then it would be possible to ask for leniency, but again, due to my moral and ethical qualities, I would not do this.”
Declaring herself a patriotic, opposition pacifist, she ended her address by saying: “No totalitarian regime has ever been as strong as before its collapse.”
According to her lawyer, the journalist and activist, who has two young children, has suffered mental health problems in jail. Last year, she compared her conditions in pre-trial detention to torture.
Media rights groups have come out to condemn this as an attack on press freedom. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) has denounced this as fierce repression of freedom of expression in Russia and demanded the immediate release of the journalist.