Russian Celebrities' Campaign Leads to Release of Actor From Jail

Andrey Zvyagintsev - Getty - H 2019

Pavel Ustinov's sentencing of 3.5 years in prison, which is now likely to be canceled, triggered a massive support campaign led by top entertainment figures.

Russian actor Pavel Ustinov was released from jail on Friday following an unprecedented campaign in his support, initiated by major film and TV figures. His 3.5 year prison sentencing is scheduled for revision next week, and most observers believe it will be replaced with a suspended sentence.

The announcement of his sentencing on Monday caused a massive support campaign, led by people from the film and TV industry. Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe winning director Andrei Zvyagintsev wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to look into Ustinov's case.

Many prominent local film and TV personalities, including TV host and former presidential candidate Kseniya Sobchak, as well as Maksim Galkin, Danila Kozlovsky, Sergei Bezrukov, Maksim Vitorgan and Yelizaveta Boyarskaya, joined the support campaign for Ustinov.

Dozens of people from the entertainment industry ran individual pickets in front of the president's administration's building in an attempt to attract authorities' attention to Ustinov's case.

Ustinov's supporters were outraged by the fact that he apparently had nothing to do with opposition protests in Moscow and was randomly grabbed and beaten up by riot police officers while just waiting for a friend near the entrance to the metro station on Aug. 3. That day, an unsanctioned protest rally was held in central Moscow. As it later turned out, Ustinov didn't even share opposition views.

Following the public outrage, government prosecutors, who originally requested a six-year prison sentence for Ustinov, claiming alleged violence against a law enforcement officer, changed their tune and sent a request to the court, calling for a more lenient sentencing.

On Friday, a Moscow court released Ustinov from jail with a pledge not to leave town. His sentencing is scheduled to be reviewed on Sept. 26. Many, including top government officials, have spoken up for a less harsh punishment for Ustinov, and he is widely believed to be eventually given a suspended sentence instead of actual prison time.

A series of protest rallies was held in Moscow in July and August, triggered by the city authorities' decision to ban several opposition candidates from the city's legislative elections on Sept. 8. Riot police brutally crushed the protests, and arrests led to prison sentences for many accused of being part of the demonstrations.