On 16 November 2023 a court in St Petersburg sentenced the artist Aleksandra Skochilenko to seven years in a penal colony on charges of ‘spreading information known to be false about the Russian army’ in March 2022. Skochilenko had replaced five price tags in a local supermarket with pieces of paper urging shoppers to end the war and resist television propaganda.
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Amnesty International has designated Aleksandra as a prisoner of conscience and Memorial has designated her as a political prisoner. You can read Aleksandra’s speech at her trial, translated by us, here.
In June 2022 Memorial called for Aleksandra to be immediately released and stated that ‘Her prosecution violates her right to freedom of expression and is intended to intimidate all Russian opponents of the war against Ukraine’:
On the evening of 31 March 2022 anti-war flyers appeared in a Perekrestok store in St. Petersburg. The flyers, inserted in place of price tags, were noticed by a customer, a 75-year-old pensioner, who immediately went to the prosecutor’s office ‘to seek justice.’ On 11 April law enforcement officers detained St. Petersburg artist Aleksandra Skochilenko. After her home was searched and she was interrogated, she was charged with disseminating inaccurate information about the Russian military, motivated by political hatred or hostility (Article 207.3, Part 2[e], of the Russian Criminal Code). On 13 April Aleksandra Skochilenko was remanded in custody despite the fact she has been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and coeliac disease – a genetic intolerance to gluten that requires a strict diet. Skochilenko faces up to ten years in a penal colony if convicted.
Reacting to the jailing of Aleksandra Skochilenko, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:
“This manifestly unjust verdict concludes a case in which the only crimes committed are those that have gone unpunished. One is against Aleksandra Skochilenko herself, who, having been arbitrarily deprived of her freedom and held in torturous conditions for 19 months, now faces the prospect of seven years in a penal colony. The other is Russian aggression against the people of Ukraine, which Aleksandra was simply trying to expose. Her persecution has become synonymous with the absurdly cruel oppression faced by Russians openly opposing their country’s criminal war. The immediate and unconditional release of Aleksandra Skochilenko and all activists jailed solely for engaging in peaceful anti-war dissent is imperative.”
Aleks Lokhmutov, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote:
‘More than 200 people have faced prosecution for “fake” news on Russia’s war in Ukraine alone. The authorities have tossed hundreds behind bars for opposing the war using Russia’s broad arsenal of repressive legislation. Aleksandra Skochilenko’s attorneys said they would appeal the verdict. But what Russia should do is release her, strike her conviction, and repeal the laws that enable these abusive prosecutions.’