‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Vladislav Vertinsky is a political prisoner

13 March 2024

Vladislav Vertinsky has been sentenced to three years in a low security penal colony for inscribing ‘Putler karut’ (sic) on the main war memorial in Ukhta.

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial, in accordance with international standards, considers Vladislav Vertinsky a political prisoner. Vertinsky was convicted on charges of damaging a memorial to those who fought in the Second World War and desecrating symbols of Russia’s military glory for an inscription he wrote on the Eternal Flame war memorial in Ukhta. Vladislav Vertinsky’s prosecution violated his right to fair trial.

We demand that Vertinsky be released, his conviction quashed and his case be heard in a new and fair trial.

What are the charges against Vladislav Vertinsky?

On 8 May 2022 Vladislav Vertinsky, from Ukhta in the Komi Republic, wrote the words ‘putler karut’ (sic) in yellow paint using a spray can on the local Eternal Flame memorial. He was identified using CCTV footage, detained and remanded in custody on 14 May 2022.

Initially Vertinsky was charged with vandalism (Article 214, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code). However, this charge was later substituted by charges of ‘damaging a memorial dedicated to the defenders of the Fatherland’ (Article 243.4, Part 2 [b], of the Russian Criminal Code) and ‘rehabilitation of Nazism in the form of desecration of a symbol of the military glory of Russia’ (Article 354.1, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code).

On 26 September 2023, the Supreme Court of the Komi Republic sentenced Vladislav Vertinsky to three years in a low security penal colony. On 19 December 2023, the sentence was upheld on appeal.

Why do we consider Vertinsky a political prisoner?

The article of the Russian Criminal Code on the rehabilitation of Nazism and desecration of symbols of military glory unreasonably restricts freedom of expression. The provisions of this article criminalise the expression of opinion about past events and prohibit any criticism of official symbols associated with the memory of the Second World War.

The article on the destruction or damage of war graves and memorials provides for excessively severe punishment for acts that do not actually pose a serious danger to the public. For example, the inscription that Vertinsky wrote on the memorial was later removed, in other words his actions did not have serious or irreversible consequences.

The court did not prove that Vertinsky wanted to desecrate a symbol of military glory or insult the memory of the fallen in World War II. Instead, it is most likely that Vertinsky was merely expressing his opinion of President Putin. In other words, his actions do not go beyond the offence of vandalism, which does not provide for imprisonment as a punishment.

Three years in a low security penal colony for an inscription about Putin, which was successfully washed off, is a punishment disproportionate to the gravity and public danger of the offence. In our view, such a severe punishment can only be explained by the fact that Vertinsky’s prosecution was politically motivated.

A detailed description of the case of Vladislav Vertinsky and the position of the Human Rights Project are available on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can donate to support all political prisoners via our website. 

Translated by Rights in Russia