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Russia: seven years in camp for sticking anti-war labels in a supermarket

Correspondent in Moscow.

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Russia: seven years in camp for sticking anti-war labels in a supermarket

Correspondent in Moscow

This minor offense should have earned Alexandra Skotchilenko a light sentence. But in Russia, this thirty-three-year-old artist was sentenced Thursday to “seven years in a penitentiary colony” for opposing the war in Ukraine. A St. Petersburg court found him guilty of “spreading false news” about the military. “Shame, shame, shame,” shouted the public who came to support her when the verdict was announced, while the young woman dressed in a colorful t-shirt emblazoned with a red heart burst into tears.

In March 2022, a few weeks after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Alexandra Skotchilenko went to a supermarket in Saint Petersburg and stuck five anti-war labels on the prices of certain products. “Putin has been lying to us for 20 years,” said one of these messages, or “The price of this war is the lives of our children.” She also denounced the bombing of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, at the cost of numerous civilian victims.

“My great-grandfather did not participate in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945, Editor’s note) so that Russia became a fascist state,” Alexandra Skotchilenko also wrote on one of the labels. Faced with the prosecutor's accusations, she nevertheless defended herself from having called Putin's Russia "fascist", stressing that she only wanted to denounce a "danger" for the country. “Everyone in this room wants only one thing: peace! (…) Everyone sees and knows that you do not judge a terrorist. You don't judge an extremist. You don't even judge a political activist. You are judging a pacifist,” she told the audience where several personalities came to support her on Thursday, including the famous director Alexandre Sokurov.

Denounced by a supermarket customer, Alexandra Skotchilenko has remained in pre-trial detention since April 2022. Her trial opened last December. All requests for house arrest were rejected, because his sister lives in France, which Russian justice considers a risk of flight. And in the meantime, her health has deteriorated in prison, due to lack of medical support, deplores her supporters according to whom the young woman suffers from a chronic intestinal disease and a congenital heart problem. His case recalls that of Alexei Gorinov, a Moscow municipal deputy, sentenced in July 2022 to seven years of imprisonment for denouncing the war and whose precarious health is causing concern.

Openly homosexual, Alexandra Skotchilenko considered in a letter to represent “everything that the Putin regime does not tolerate: creativity, pacifism, LGBT, feminism, humanism (…)”. In a press release, the NGO Amnesty International denounced “a sham trial”, estimating that the Skotchilenko affair “has become synonymous with the absurd and cruel oppression faced by Russians who openly oppose the war” .

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