Mr. Pivovarov was convicted, on the basis of Facebook posts, of campaigning for a banned organization.

“Andrei Pivovarov was sentenced to four years in a penal colony with a ban on socio-political activities for a period of eight years,” his team wrote on the Twitter account in his name.

Speaking from his metal cage in court, Mr Pivovarov reiterated that change in Russia would come, sooner or later.

“And even though now those who defend the future are trampled on and imprisoned, I know that progress cannot be stopped, changes for the better are inevitable and they are not far away,” he said.

“We’re going to get out of this!”, He launched, affirming that his condemnation was of a political nature. His lawyer Sergei Badamchin said they would appeal.

– “Shameful verdict” –

“The unfair prosecution and cruel prison sentence imposed on Pivovarov is part of a campaign by the Russian authorities to use the criminal code against anyone who dares to exercise their right to freedom of expression”, reacted Marie Struthers, the director of ‘Amnesty International for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“Today’s verdict and the criminal article from which it stems are shameful,” she added.

On May 31, 2021, the police had extricated Mr. Pivovarov from a plane ready to take off from Saint Petersburg for Warsaw.

A few days earlier, he had announced the self-dissolution of his organization Otkritaïa Rossia (Open Russia), linked to the ex-oligarch and exiled opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had himself spent years in prison in Russia.

Mr. Pivovarov had announced that he would dissolve his movement because he expected it to be classified as “undesirable”, which exposed its activists, members and employees to legal proceedings.

After his arrest, he was transferred to a prison in the south-west of Russia, in Krasnodar, where he was tried.

– “Handcuffed candidate” –

From his cell, he campaigned for the September 2021 legislative elections, with the slogan “stronger than fear”, his team presenting him as the “handcuffed candidate”.

His arrest took place in the midst of a wave of repression against opposition organizations in the run-up to these elections. Shortly after his imprisonment, all the structures of the number 1 opponent in the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny, had been banned for extremism.

Mr. Navalny was already in prison and many of his executives subsequently chose exile in the face of the multiplication of legal actions against them.

This repression has been further accentuated since February 24, when Vladimir Putin’s Russia launched its offensive against Ukraine.

Soon, heavy prison sentences were introduced for any criticism of the Russian military. In the aftermath, renowned opponents and ordinary citizens were arrested and imprisoned for denouncing Russia’s assault on its neighbor or abuses by Russian forces.

The opponents Ilia Iachine and Vladimir Kara-Mourza but also ordinary citizens have already been imprisoned for such reasons pending their trial.

A Moscow elected official, Alexei Gorinov, was sentenced to seven years in prison last week for denouncing the offensive against Ukraine.

The biggest social networks and a host of Russian and foreign media have also been blocked in Russia.

On Friday again, the Russian authorities classified the Bellingcat and The Insider investigative websites as “undesirable”, judging that they represented “a threat to the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation”.

These sites had published investigations accusing Russian agents, whom they identified, of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny in August 2020. The latter had escaped death and then been arrested upon his return in early 2021 from convalescence from Germany.