Artist faces prison for protesting Russia’s Ukraine war

Artist faces prison for protesting Russia’s Ukraine war

A peaceful protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has landed a 33-year-old artist and musician in jail. Sasha Skochilenko is on trial for spreading false information about the military, a charge that carries up to eight years in prison.

Skochilenko is one of the many Russians who have been silenced by the authorities for expressing their dissent over the war, which started in February 2022. A new law passed in March 2022 banned any public criticism of the war, calling it “discrediting the army” or “extremism”.

Skochilenko was arrested in April 2022 after she replaced supermarket price tags with anti-war messages. She has been in pre-trial detention for almost 19 months, despite having several health issues, such as a heart defect, bipolar disorder, and celiac disease. She has not received proper medical care or a gluten-free diet, which has worsened her condition.

She has also faced psychological abuse and harassment by the investigators and the judge, who have denied her basic rights and due process. She has been forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital and accused of belonging to a radical feminist group that she has never heard of.

On November 8, the prosecution asked the court to sentence Skochilenko to eight years in prison. Skochilenko said she was “in shock” by the harshness of the sentence.

Skochilenko’s case has attracted international attention and condemnation from human rights groups, activists, and artists. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Memorial has declared her a political prisoner and called for her immediate release. Amnesty International has named her a prisoner of conscience and launched a campaign to demand her freedom.

Skochilenko is an artist and musician who has published a book about depression and mental health, and has participated in various social and cultural projects. She is an open lesbian and her partner, Sofya Subbotina, has been actively involved in publicizing her case and supporting her. In a letter from jail, Skochilenko wrote: “It just so happened that I represent everything that the Putin regime is so intolerant of: creativity, pacifism, LGBT, psycho-enlightenment, feminism, humanism, and love for everything bright, ambiguous, unusual.”

Skochilenko’s verdict is expected to be announced on November 15. Her supporters are planning to hold a rally in front of the court on that day, and have urged people around the world to join them in solidarity.