Blogger Aleksandr Nozdrinov is serving a prison sentence of eight-and-a-half years after being convicted by a Russian court of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army. Russian authorities detained him in March 2022.
Nozdrinov covers alleged corruption by local authorities, with a particular focus on the activities of traffic police officers, on the YouTube channel Haus Rasha, formerly known as Sanya Novokubansk, which has about 34,500 subscribers, according to CPJ’s review of the channel. Nozdrinov’s wife, Ekaterina Nozdrinova, told privately owned Krasnodar-based news website 93.ru that her husband often filmed police officers, prosecutors, and other officials.
Arrest and detention
On March 17, 2022, authorities in the southwestern city of Novokubansk detained Nozdrinov for disobeying a police officer, according to media reports. Nozdrinov was beaten by police at the time of his arrest, his lawyer Olesya Panyuzheva told Kavkaz.Realii, the Caucasus-focused project of the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. On March 27, his home was searched in connection with a case of spreading “fake information” about the Russian army, according to media reports.
Authorities accused Nozdrinov of posting photos of destroyed buildings in Kyiv on a now-closed Telegram channel on March 6, 2022, with the caption “Ukrainian cities after the arrival of the ‘liberators’,” and of allegedly receiving 1,000 rubles (US$10) from two unidentified people. Russian authorities denied responsibility for the attack.
In March 2022, following the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian lawmakers adopted changes to the country’s laws, imposing fines and prison terms for discrediting the country’s military or spreading “fake” information about it.
Nozdrinov denied being connected to the Telegram channel and said he was unaware of its existence, according to Setevye Svobody, a Russian freedom of expression legal assistance organization, and Panyuzheva, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. Evidence in the case included the testimony of a secret witness, according to Setevye Svobody.
Nozdrinov said that the case against him was “fabricated” and retaliation from local authorities for his anti-corruption publications. Moments before his sentence was announced on September 29, 2023, Nozdrinov told his lawyer that he “did not expect any justice” from the court.
The Novokubansky District Court convicted Nozdrinov on charges of spreading false information about Russian military actions in the Ukraine war and sentenced him to eight and a half years in prison, along with a four-year ban on media-related activities after his release, according to media reports, Setevye Svobody, and a Telegram post by the joint press service of the courts of Krasnodar Krai, where Novokubansk is located.
The court convicted the journalist on two counts—distributing “fake” information “out of hatred” and for “self-serving motives,” those sources reported.
Dmitriy Bubenko, a local blogger who has been covering Nozdrinov’s trial, told CPJ via messaging app that the journalist plans to appeal the verdict.
Panyuzheva, who had complained about procedural violations in Nozdrinov’s trial, called the sentence “absurd,” “illegal,” and “unfair,” and said that the case showed that “anyone who … has a public activity, uncovers crimes and wrongdoings of corrupt police officers and representatives of the court and other law enforcement agencies, can be put behind bars.”
“He was simply removed, as he was a nuisance,” Nozdrinov’s wife told 93.ru.
Bubenko, whose home was searched in connection to Nozdrinov’s case in March 2022, told CPJ that the case was “undoubtedly falsified” and that the charges were based on “absolutely nothing.”
“Every piece of evidence looks so absurd that it is impossible for a sane person to believe it,” Bubenko said.
Nozdrinov’s wife told CPJ in October 2023 that she had not been able to visit her husband since April. She said that Nozdrinov recently got sick and had a fever but that he was feeling better and was “ready to fight.”
In October 2023, CPJ emailed the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Krasnodar Region, and the Novokubansky District Court for comment on Nozdrinov, but did not receive any replies.
CPJ did not include Nozdrinov in its previous prison census due to insufficient information available at the time.