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Two Russians get short jail terms in Latvia for trespassing on military base

Latvia’s authorities said in 2015 Andrei Popko and Alexander Kurkin entered the Adazi military base where NATO’s Saber Strike military drills were conducted

RIGA, July 27. /TASS/. Latvia’s Riga region court has sentenced two Russian nationals to about four months in prison, finding them guilty of trespassing on the Adazi military base in the summer of 2015, local human rights activist Vladimir Linderman told TASS on Thursday.

"Andrei Popko and Alexander Kurkin were given sentences of three months and 27 days, the term has already been served (the court took into account the time they had spent in custody)," he said.

He also said the Russian nationals will appeal against the judgment as soon as their lawyer gets the full text of the verdict.

According to Linderman, the sentence came as triumph of the defense. "Our arguments were so powerful," he said. "I am not speaking about political views, which are clear, but strictly about the legal angle. There are no components of crime - hooliganism, - and our lawyers have brilliantly proved this," Linderman said.

Terrorists or hooligans

The news about Popko and Kurkin’s detention came on June 10, 2015. Latvia’s authorities said the two had entered the Adazi military base where NATO’s Saber Strike military drills were being conducted. The Russians claimed they had planned a peaceful protest against NATO’s troop buildup near the Russian border. They used a ladder to climb over the fence, entered the territory of the base and unfurled a flag in the colors of Saint George ribbon.

Eduard Limonov, a former leader of Russia’s National Bolshevik Party (NBP) and now the leader of the non-registered party Other Russia, said on the same day the two young men were NBP activists.

After that a court in Latvia arrested both Russians, charging them with violating two articles of the country’s Criminal Code. The counts included espionage and an attempted terrorist attack by a group of persons acting in conspiracy. At first, they could have faced 20 years behind bars or even life imprisonment.

However, later Latvia’s Security Police changed the charges to "hooliganism by a group of persons" for which they could face prison terms of up to 5 years, compulsory labor, or a monetary fine.

In the beginning of October 2015, a court in Latvia released Popko and Kurkin from custody but they were prohibited from leaving the country. Additionally, they were forced to remain under police supervision. Later the court, permitted them to leave Latvia until the hearing began, so they went back to Russia.