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Azerbaijan Sentences Russian-Israeli Blogger To Three Years In Prison

Russian-Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin (center) was extradited from Azerbaijan from Minsk in February at Baku's request. (file photo)

BAKU -- A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced Russian-Israeli blogger Aleksandr Lapshin to three years in jail, after convicting him on a charge of violating the country's territorial integrity.

On July 20, Lapshin was found guilty of illegally visiting Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2011 and 2012 without Baku's permission, and calling for the recognition of the region's independence in two online statements.

He was sentenced the same day.

Lapshin pleaded not guilty, saying his visit to the breakaway region did not have any political motives and adding that he considers Nagorno-Karabakh to be Azerbaijani territory.

Lapshin, 40, who also has Ukrainian citizenship, writes a Russian-language travel blog. He was detained in Belarus in mid-December at Baku's request.

Despite Russia's objections, Belarusian authorities extradited Lapshin to Baku in February.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on July 20 when asked whether Lapshin might be extradited to Russia, saying it was "not the Kremlin's issue."

With reporting by TASS and Interfax