Russian President Vladimir Putin has pardoned a jailed woman, a year after she was convicted of treason for texting about the country’s military movements near Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, saying it was issued on humanitarian grounds.
Oxana Sevastidi, now 46, was found guilty in March last year by a Russian court and was sentenced to seven years in prison after she was detained by Russia
’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in January 2015 for sending photos she had taken of the country’s military hardware being transported on a train in April 2008, months before the conflict of August. She had sent the photos, along with some text messages about the convoy, to a Georgian acquaintance.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the pro-Western government in Tbilisi has never recognized the independence of these regions. Moscow, however, recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as two independent nations after a brief war broke out between Russia and Georgia in August 2008.
On Tuesday, however, official pardon was issued by the Kremlin, saying that it was motivated by “principles of humanity” and would enter into force in five days’ time.
The lengthy sentence for Sevastidi, who is from the Black Sea city of Sochi, located near the border between Georgia-Abkhazia and Russia, had been criticized by the Russian leader back in December last year, calling it “quite a harsh approach.”
Yevgeny Smirnov, Sevastidi’s lawyer, has praised Putin’s decree but maintained that she would battle on until her conviction was overturned. According to Smirnov, the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on her client’s case in mid-March. The middle-aged woman is currently held in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail.