Moscow court sentences political strategist to 14 years in max-security prison for ‘kompromat’ scheme

A Moscow district court has handed a 14-year maximum-security prison sentence to Alexander Ustinov, a Yekaterinburg political strategist accused of blackmailing politicians and businessmen.

Ustinov was found guilty of two counts of fraud, as well as charges of extortion and the illegal production and distribution of pornography online. The court also found Ustinov guilty of slander, but pardoned him of the charge because the statute of limitations had expired. 

Ustinov ran two Telegram channels called “Ustinov Trolls” and “DIP Dubernator.” According to investigators, the political strategist would search for compromising information (kompromat) about politicians and businessmen, and then, for a fee, offer to refrain from making this information public or remove it from sites he controlled. 

The two other defendants in the case, Ustinov’s alleged accomplices — journalist Ivan Bestsenny and programmer Anton Stark, — were sentenced to 12 and 10 years in prison, respectively. 

Plaintiffs in the case against Ustinov included major companies from various Russian regions, including VTB Bank. 

State Duma lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein was victim in the case opened over the illegal production and distribution of pornography online. According to Novaya Gazeta, investigators claimed that Ustinov posted a “video from a bathhouse containing ‘homosexual pornography’,” and alleged that it was of Khinshtein. The lawmaker insisted that he wasn’t the person in the video.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Ustinov to 16 years in prison. Ustinov pleaded innocent, calling the case against him political. 

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