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Russian Court Sentences Priest’s Sons to 17 Years for Alleged Attempt to Join Ukrainian Army

Three sons of a Russian priest, Ioann Ashcheulov, 24, Alexei Ashcheulov, 20, and Timofey Ashcheulov, 19, have been sentenced to up to 17.5 years in prison by a Moscow court for attempting to join the Ukrainian army, according to Mediazona. They were arrested in July 2023 while trying to cross the Russian-Ukrainian border. The brothers, sons of Igor Ashcheulov, a 49-year-old priest from Lipetsk, deny the charges.

The Moscow’s Second Western Military Garrison Court found them guilty of attempted treason, unlawfully attempting to cross the border, and involvement with a banned paramilitary organization, sentencing them to between 17 and 17.5 years in maximum-security prison. Prosecutors had sought an 18-year sentence.

Despite treason cases typically being closed to the public, the Ashcheulovs’ trial was open. Mediazona reported that incriminating videos filmed by another brother showed Alexei and Timofey discussing defection to Ukraine, with Alexei expressing shame about being Russian. The Federal Security Service (FSB) found emails and Telegram messages with a member of the banned Freedom of Russia Legion, a Ukrainian paramilitary unit of Russian nationals.

During their trial, the brothers expressed opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ioann Ashcheulov stated, “I was born in a country that commits crimes in Ukraine. I’m responsible for the actions of my government, and many innocent Ukrainian civilians died from Russian bombings.” He added that he did not consider himself a traitor to Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which supports Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including referring to it as a “holy war,” has not commented on the case.

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