A Moscow court has left a 19-year-old Putin critic in pre-trial detention until September, as the Kremlin uses sweeping security measures to drown out dissent during the World Cup.
As her parents stifled tears in the stuffy courtroom, judge Anatoly Kostyukov turned down veterinary student Maria Dubovik's plea for home arrest despite complaints about her worsening health.
She and five others who disparaged Vladimir Putin's government in private chats were jailed in March and face 10 years in prison for “organising an extremist group”. They include Anna Pavlikova and Vyacheslav Kryukov, who were 17 and 19 at the time of their arrest.
Four more defendants are under home arrest.
A 2017 presidential decree banned all rallies during the World Cup not approved by local authorities, and the government has begun implementing heavy security for the event.
But critics argue state agencies are clamping down on all forms of dissent ahead of the start of the competition next week.
According to their lawyers, Ms Dubovik and the others were entrapped by undercover agents.
“The increased security measures (around the World Cup) have led to innocent people getting in trouble, and dishonest law enforcement officials are using this to their advantage,” lawyer Maxim Pashkov said. “The atmosphere is such that they arrest first and figure out what actually happened later.”
Normally, pretrial detention would be extended by two months rather than three, he said.
Nine young anti-fascists have been arrested for allegedly plotting to set off bombs during the World Cup, accusations Human Rights Watch said were based on confessions extracted under torture.
On Monday, a Moscow court sentenced Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, who was detained during a 2016 trip to Russia, to 12 years in prison for spying.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called the charges baseless and sought Mr Sushchenko's release.
Meanwhile, a Moscow State University student faces three years in prison after he was detained for allegedly painting "no to the fan zone" over a World Cup sign, a reference to a campaign against a fan zone near campus.
Police have also reportedly been conducting raids in recent months against members of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organisation, which Russia banned in 2017.
Oleg Sentsov, a pro-Ukrainian film director who was given 20 years in an Arctic prison for allegedly planning to blow up a Lenin monument in Crimea, has been holding a hunger strike since May 14 to demand the release of Ukrainian political prisoners.
"I'm a 19-year-old student, how could I obstruct the case, male witnesses who are much older & stronger?" Maria Dubovik says by vid link as her parents cry. But the judge leaves her in jail until September. She faces 10yrs as part of "extremist group" because of anti-Putin chats pic.twitter.com/DQMdP4znpH
— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) June 5, 2018
Activists have also been arrested over protests against Moscow region landfills. Serpukhov district head Alexander Shestun, who posted recordings of men he said were high-ranking officials demanding he resign over his support for the demonstrations, told The Telegraph that the arrest of three district employees last month was part of the pressure on him.
In the case of Ms Dubovik, she and several friends had begun discussing politics on the messenger app Telegram, which Russia has tried to ban, following a failed “revolution” of mostly young protesters called by self-exiled nationalist Vyacheslav Maltsev in November. They later began meeting in a McDonalds and going to opposition protests in Moscow.
A newcomer to the group, Alexander Konstantinov, rented an office for the would-be activists and wrote a political manifesto calling for Mr Putin to be tried by a “people's tribunal,” according to his testimony.
He took some of them to shoot targets at a hunting reserve and learn to make Molotov cocktails at an abandoned building outside Moscow, although her lawyer said Ms Dubovik didn't go.
Mr Konstantinov was in fact gathering evidence against the young people. Testimony revealed that a police investigator and at least one other man had also been secretly embedded in the group.
“When armed police came to search our home and said our Maria wanted to overthrow the constitutional order in Russia, we were afraid she had given everything up for some campaign, but we went to the institute and she hadn't missed any classes,” Ms Dubovik's father Sergei said. “She just was talking with people who had a dissenting opinion.”
Opposition activist Ildar Dadin, who was released from prison last year after Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, was one of several dozen supporters not allowed into the courtroom on Tuesday.
He asked how European teams could participate in a World Cup “in a country that kills and imprisons innocent people”.
“It's football on people's blood,” he said.