MOSCOW, Russia — A Moscow court on Monday fined a prominent blogger for inciting hatred after he called on President Vladimir Putin to “wipe Syria off the map.”
Russia has conducted a year-long bombing campaign in Syria to bolster long-time ally President Bashar Assad, and is currently supporting a brutal offensive by government troops to capture the rebel-held part of Aleppo.
Blogger Anton Nossik, a familiar face at rare opposition rallies, was slapped with a 500,000-ruble fine ($8,000) by a Moscow court for welcoming Russia’s bombing campaign and calling on the Kremlin strongman to destroy Syria in a blog post, court spokeswoman Anastasia Pylina told AFP.
Nossik, who has dual Russian and Israeli citizenship, said that Syria had always been a “serious military threat” to Israel and thus “warmly welcomed” Moscow’s bombing campaign.
Opposition figures were quick to point out the irony of putting Nossik on trial while Russian forces were being accused by the West of potential war crimes in Syria.
“As Russian troops are storming Aleppo, I am being judged in Moscow for supporting this assault,” Nossik was quoted as saying in court by firebrand opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Nossik’s lawyer, Sergei Badamshin joked in an op-ed that his client was the first person to be “accused of openly supporting Vladimir Putin.”
Russia’s intervention — the Kremlin’s first beyond the borders of the ex-USSR since the start of the disastrous decade-long Afghanistan campaign in 1979 — has sparked very little debate in the country.
The West has accused Moscow of indiscriminately bombing Aleppo’s opposition-controlled east to help Syrian government troops retake control over the country’s second city.
A short-lived ceasefire hammered out between Moscow and Washington last month could have led to the two countries coordinating strikes on jihadists, but the deal quickly unraveled.