Nice words can be expensive – at least in Russia in 2023. According to media reports, a 70-year-old woman is to be fined 40,000 rubles ($500) there for complimenting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

According to the Russian human rights organization “Memorial”, in December 2022, in a sanatorium in the city of Nalchik in the Kabardino-Balkaria republic, the pensioner is said to have described the head of state of the hostile neighboring country as a “good-looking young man” to a friend. She also attested the former Ukrainian actor and comedian “a good sense of humor”.

What was supposed to be a question of taste turned into a question of criminal law. Three people had officially filed a complaint against the 70-year-old for alleged support of Ukraine. At the local police station, she defended herself and explained that she was only talking about the president’s appearance, not about him as a person. According to “Memorial”, a police officer replied: “You have no right to praise him because he is our enemy.” Later she was forced to sign an interrogation protocol, which she could not even read properly – the pensioner is said to have cataracts.

After a short court hearing on Thursday in Moscow, she was sentenced to pay the fine. Any form of “discrediting” of the Russian Armed Forces is against current legislation.

According to reports, this is not the first time that Russian law enforcement agencies have cracked down on allegedly critical citizens. In December, a court in the Siberian city of Chita fined a man around €330 for posting on social media that he had dreamed of Zelensky.

In a dream, he was mobilized by President Vladimir Putin and sent to the front in Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers led by Selenskyj then broke into the training center and shot all the recruits. But the president recognized the dreamer at the last moment and said: “‘Oh, I saw your Instagram stories. Glory to Ukraine!’ And I answer: ‘Glory to the heroes!'” The commander-in-chief then spared him.

For the Russian authorities, that was nothing more than discrediting. The accused missed the subsequent court hearing – he was not informed of the date in good time.

Sources: “Memorial Human Rights Center”; “semafor”; “Daily Beasts”; “Meduza”; “Editorial Network Germany”