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Man Jailed for Treason After Attempted Swim to Odesa

Black Sea shore in Olenivka, Crimea. Uncle Sasha (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Supreme Court of Crimea has sentenced a St. Petersburg resident to six years in prison with hard labor after finding him guilty on charges of treason for illegally crossing the border when he attempted to swim from Russia-occupied Crimea to join the Ukrainian military, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Friday.

The man, who was not named but is in his early 40s, apparently attempted to reach the Ukrainian port of Odesa last summer by swimming across the Black Sea from the westernmost point of Crimea, a distance of approximately 180 kilometers.

Wearing a wetsuit and flippers, and carrying the bare essentials such as a compass and an underwater flashlight, the man was detained by Russian border guards after swimming for two days, the Interfax news agency reported.

Quite how he was able to remain in the water for so long remains unclear, though the judicial press service said that he had "performed various swimming and resting techniques in the water while observing secrecy measures," according to Interfax.

He had previously attempted to enter Ukraine through Russia’s Bryansk region but had settled on the Black Sea route when that plan failed.

Earlier this week, Russia’s FSB security service arrested a Russian citizen who allegedly attempted to pass intelligence to Ukraine on Russia’s military facilities, according to Russian news agency TASS.

In July Russian President Vladimir Putin signed new amendments to Russia’s law on treason, adding "defecting to the side of the enemy” to the list of treasonable offenses, with anyone found guilty facing anywhere between 12 and 20 years in jail.

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