Russian Prosecutors Say Man's Reaction to Ethnic Riot Was Hate Speech

Riot police and demonstrators clash in Biryulyovo, October 13, 2013. YouTube.

Riot police and demonstrators clash in Biryulyovo, October 13, 2013. YouTube.

It's been more than a year since Konstantin Sankov left a supposedly racist comment on Vkontakte, Russia's most popular social network. This week, he may have to pay for it.

In October of 2013, riots broke out in the Moscow suburb of Biryuluovo following the murder of an ethnic Russian man, allegedly at the hands of an Azerbaijani attacker. Konstantin Sankov, an ethnic Russian man residing in St. Petersburg, commented on the incident online, using language that authorities found to be hateful. Now, over a year since he posted his comment, he is finally headed to trial.

The original text of Sankov's comment has not been reported by media or authorities commenting on the issue, and is no longer accessible on Vkontakte.

St. Petersburg's District Attorney says Sankov's language was hate speech, banned under the controversial Article 282. Russians from across the political spectrum, human rights activists and neo-Nazis alike, accuse police of arbitrarily enforcing Article 282 to stifle free speech, especially on the Internet. Sankov stands accused of “calling for hostile acts against a group defined in terms of national identity, language, origin, or territory.” If convicted, he could go to prison for as long as five years. 

State prosecutors say Sankov's comment appeared alongside a video link he published on Vkontakte. The video excerpts a segment from a television program focusing on the murder that sparked the Biryulyovo riot. The District Attorney's press release on the case even goes so far as to say Sankov was “guided by a false sense of justice” when he uploaded the video.

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