Russia Jails Opera Singer for 10 Years Over Covid Protest

A prominent opera singer from Russia’s North Caucasus has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for calling on his home city to protest coronavirus lockdown measures in the early weeks of the pandemic, the state-run TASS news agency reported.

Vadim Cheldiyev in April 2020 posted a video calling on people to attend a planned protest against Covid-19 restrictions in Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s republic of North Ossetia, over concerns that the lockdown would cost many local jobs. The baritone was detained shortly after and initially charged with spreading “fakes” about the pandemic.

A court in the southern Rostov region on Tuesday found Cheldiyev guilty of spreading calls for unauthorized mass protests and sentenced him to 10 years in a maximum-security prison.

About 1,000 people gathered for the April 2020 protest in Vladikavkaz, despite the lockdown measures, to demand local authorities’ resignation and Cheldiyev’s release from custody.

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