MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Monday convicted the director of a Ukrainian library of inciting ethnic hatred to Russians and imposed a four-year suspended sentence.
Natalya Sharina was first detained in October 2015 in the latest twist of the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and threw its weight behind separatist rebels in Ukraine's east. She spent a night in jail before she was put under house arrest.
The Library of Ukrainian Literature stocks titles in Russian and Ukrainian, and gets funding from the Moscow city budget.
The court on Monday found Sharina guilty of breaking the law on extremism because her library stocked books by nationalist activist Dmytro Korchynsky, which are banned in Russia. Sharina had pleaded not guilty and said the books had been planted in the library. The Ukrainian government dismissed the trial as a political witch-hunt.
Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday that the prosecution in Sharina's case "exploited the highly charged anti-Ukrainian atmosphere that is prevalent in Russia at the moment" and dismissed key evidence for the defense.
The official historic narratives of Russia and Ukraine clash on a number of issues including the participation of Ukrainian nationalist partisans in World War II when some of them joined the occupying Nazi forces in western Ukraine in order to fight Soviet troops in their declared fight for independence.