Write to Russia: Evgenia Berkovich – a theatre director held on remand on charges of ‘justifying terrorism’ in violation of the right to freedom of expression

Theatre director Evgenia Berkovich was arrested on 4 May 2023 together with the playwright Svetlana Petriychuk. Both women were charged with ‘justifying terrorism’ for authoring and staging the award-winning play, Finist the Bright Falcon [Finist Yasny Sokol], about women who left for Syria and there married members of armed groups. The two were remanded in custody by a Moscow court on 5 May 2023. Berkovich has two adopted daughters, one of whom is a minor. If convicted Evgenia Berkovich faces seven years in prison. Both Berkovich and Petriychuk have been recognised as political prisoners by Memorial and as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

The play Finist Yasny Sokol, directed by Berkovich and written by Svetlana Petriychuk premiered in December 2020. The play is based on the real stories of women recruited by ISIS. The prosecuting authorities allege the content of the play contains ‘evidence of justification of terrorism’, an offence under (Article 205.2, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code).

The prosecution of Berkovich and Petriychuk violates their rights to freedom of expression and fair trial and is on account of their creative work and civic position. We demand the immediate release of Berkovich and Petriychuk from custody and an end to their criminal prosecution. […] In our view, there are no grounds for the prosecuting authorities to charge Petriychuk and Berkovich with justification of terrorism on the grounds of their play. The reason for their prosecution could be to punish the young women for their active civic anti-war stance, as well as the banal desire to intimidate cultural figures in Russia and force them to abandon the creation of works that do not correspond with the themes prioritised by the Russian authorities..

Memorial, 27 September 2023

Theatre director Evgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk are being arbitrarily detained since 5 May and face prosecution for authoring and staging “Finist Yasny Sokol,” an award-winning play about women who left for Syria and married members of armed groups. Both women face absurd charges of “justifying terrorism” which carry up to seven years in prison. Russian authorities must immediately release them and drop all charges.

Amnesty International, 22 August 2023

Write to Russia – Write to Evgenia Berkovich

The Russian penal system does not allow any messages to prisoners that are written in foreign languages, but Write to Russia is here to help you. To write to Evgenia Berkovich to show your support for her, please send your letter as an email to us at: letters-to-prisoners@protonmail.com. We shall translate the letter into Russian for you and, depending on your request, either mail the translated letter on your behalf to Evgenia or return the letter to you by email for posting in an envelope with an address written in Russian. If we send the letter on your behalf, we ask that you compensate us for the cost of postage from the UK (currently £2.50 – $3.14; €2.92). To learn more about our letter writing project, click here: Write to Russia.

The address to write to Evgenia Berkovich is:

109383, г. Москва, ул. Шоссейная, д. 92, ФКУ СИЗО-6 УФСИН России по г. Москве, Беркович Евгении Борисовне 1985 г. р.

If you would like to write to another person unjustly deprived of liberty in Russia, the project Write to Russia has so far highlighted the following cases:

  1. Sasha (Aleksandra) Skochilenko – imprisoned for peaceful anti-war protest – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-2/
  2. Mikhail Zhilin – imprisoned for refusing to fight against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-3/
  3. Aleksei Arbuzenko – imprisoned for protesting the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-4/
  4. Aleksei Navalny – imprisoned for peaceful participation in electoral politics – died in custody – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-5/
  5. Evgeny Zinich- imprisoned for his faith – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-6/
  6. Alsu Kurmasheva – held on remand for her work as a journalist – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-7/
  7. Bakhrom Khamroev – imprisoned for his political and religious beliefs and human rights work – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-8
  8. Andrei Kapatsyna – imprisoned for his religious beliefs and refusing to fight in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-9
  9. Gregory Vinter – imprisoned for speaking out about the killings in Bucha and Irpen – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-10
  10. Aleksei Gorinov – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-11/
  11. Vladimir Kara-Murza – imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-12/
  12. Darya Poliudova – imprisoned for exercising her right to freedom of expression – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-13/
  13. Ilya Yashin – imprisoned for speaking out about Russian war crimes in Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-14/
  14. Appaz Kurtamet – imprisoned on fabricated charges of ‘financing an illegal armed group’ by a Russian-controlled court in occupied Crimea – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-15/
  15. Vyacheslav Malakhov – remanded in custody for criticising Putin for launching the war against Ukraine – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-16/
  16. Maria Ponomarenko – imprisoned for sharing information about the Russian attack on the Mariupol theatre – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-17/
  17. Grigory Melkonyants – in custody for his work monitoring elections in Russia – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-18/
  18. Daniil Stepanov – imprisoned for anti-war ‘vandalism’ and ‘cooperation with foreign organisations’ – https://www.rightsinrussia.org/write-to-russia-19/