Russia jails U.S.-Russian citizen for 3.5 years for "rehabilitating Nazism"

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) -A man with dual U.S.-Russian nationality was sentenced by a Russian court on Wednesday to three-and-a-half years in prison on charges of "rehabilitating Nazism".

Yuri Malev was arrested last December over social media posts in which he was alleged to have denigrated the Saint George's ribbon, a symbol of Russian military valour. One contained obscene language and the other showed a picture of a corpse wearing the ribbon with a caption saying "how to wear the Saint George's ribbon correctly".

The court in St Petersburg, where Malev was tried, said this showed disrespect for society and insulted the memory of the Great Patriotic War, as Russians refer to World War Two.

Malev admitted guilt, the court said. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow did not immediately reply to a request for comment on his conviction.

The independent SOTA news outlet said Malev was a graduate of the law faculty of St Petersburg University and had lived in the United States since 1991.

Baza, a Telegram channel with links to Russian law enforcement, said Malev was a resident of Brooklyn, New York. It said he had entered Russia by bus from Estonia two weeks prior to his arrest.

Several Americans and dual citizens are imprisoned in Russia, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva.

Moscow has cracked down on dissent and behaviour that can be construed as unpatriotic since President Vladimir Putin sent his army into Ukraine more than two years ago in what he called an operation to demilitarise and de-nazify the country.

Russian authorities detained a 23-year-old woman in February on suspicion of "rehabilitating Nazism" after she filmed a video mocking a World War Two monument in Volgograd and uploaded it to social media.

Putin has likened the Ukraine war to the World War Two struggle to defeat Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, and Russia routinely refers the Kyiv government as a "Nazi regime".

Ukraine - which was part of the Soviet Union and itself suffered devastation at the hands of Hitler's forces - rejects those parallels as spurious pretexts for a war of imperial conquest. It also notes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is Jewish.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)