A German man received 3 years in prison in response to calling Ukraine a "terrorist state" and displaying the Russian military symbol "Z" in posts online. Ukrainian media has been reporting on the man's prison sentence and has been receiving approval for doing so. Media outlets have claimed that the man was supporting "Russian aggression." The sentence was handed down from a court in Hamburg.
According to the indictment, "The defendant justified Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine on social media and ran a Telegram channel whose name and logo were based on the ultranationalist Russian Drugaya Rossiya (Other Russia) party."
The sentence seems heavy given that the man's "supporting Russian aggression" charge was added to an already existing charge for illegal weapons possession. He also already had a criminal record, according to a Zerohedge report.
Last year after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, several German states began warning that they would prosecute 'pro-Russian propagandists' and banned the display of the 'Z' symbol.
The policy changes snowballed eventually reaching the federal level where people would be held criminally liable for "hate speech" for expressing any type of public approval regarding the war.
Germany's Interior Ministry said at the time, "The Russian attack on Ukraine is a crime and whoever publicly approves of this war can thereby become criminally liable."
Germany was also pressured to make the changes as the Ukrainian government lobbied European governments to limit the speech of their citizens regarding the war.
At the start of the conflict, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba posted on Twitter, "I call on all states to criminalize the use of the 'Z' symbol as a way to publicly support Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. 'Z' means Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians. Public support of this barbarism must be forbidden."
Germany took the request so far as to ban certain pro-Russian symbols at demonstrations in some cities.
Very little dissent has emerged in Germany over the recent restrictions on free speech, but Sabine Beppler-Spahl who is the chair of the German liberal think tank Freiblickinstitut wrote in Spiked that, "pro-Russia demonstrators can now accuse Germany of hypocrisy. After all, the very same German politicians who frequently attack the repression of dissent in Russia are now repressing dissent in Germany."
Subscribe to our evening newsletter to stay informed during these challenging times!!