Dmitri Lovetsky Associated Press In April 2022, Sasha Skochilenko (pictured) was arrested for changing five price tags in a St. Petersburg supermarket to replace them with labels displaying messages condemning the war in Ukraine.
It was by delivering a vibrant plea for pacifism that Russian artist Alexandra (Sasha) Skochilenko, 33, welcomed Thursday the sentence of seven years in a penal colony imposed on her by a court in Saint- Petersburg for spreading “false information” about the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine.
“Everyone sees and knows that you are not trying a terrorist in this court. You don't judge an extremist. You don't even judge a political activist. You are trying a pacifist,” the young woman said in court. “Pacifists have always existed,” she added. This is a certain type of person who believes that life is the highest value of all. »
In April 2022, Sasha was arrested for changing five price tags in a St. Petersburg supermarket to replace them with labels displaying messages condemning the war in Ukraine.
On one of these labels, it read: “Stop the war! In the first three days, 4,300 Russian soldiers were killed. Why don’t they talk about it on TV? »
On another, it was mentioned that “the Russian army bombed an art school in Mariupol where around 400 people had taken refuge to escape the bombing.” News that had been documented by numerous international media.
In court, Sasha mentioned that “no one was hurt by my action, but I've been in custody for over 18 months for this — along with murderers, thieves, child molesters and pimps.”
The 30-year-old said she had met several people in prison who support the war led by Russia against Ukraine. “Even these supporters of the special military operation don’t think I deserve a prison sentence for what I did,” she said.
Sasha — who admitted to putting up the labels, without admitting that the information posted on them was false — was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony under the law passed in March 2022 by the Kremlin that prohibits “discrediting” or to spread “false information” about the Russian military. A crime which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Dissuade all criticism
In an interview with Devoir , Sasha's partner, Sonia Subbotina, 31, said she was not surprised by the verdict. “There is no freedom of expression left in our country,” she lamented. Sasha's lawyers will nevertheless appeal the decision.
“Sasha's case is being used to sow terror,” Sonia continued. This is a very clear message being sent to Russians: if you speak out against the war, no one will care about your state of health, you will be imprisoned, and for a long time. »
Since the start of his incarceration, Sasha, who is bipolar and suffers from celiac and heart problems, has not had access to the care required by his condition, deplores Sonia. She adds that during the trial, Sasha was kept in a cage during court days which lasted seven to eight hours. “The judge left her there all day without allowing her to take breaks,” she denounces, describing this situation as “torture”.
“It’s completely heartbreaking to see the person you are closest to being held in a cage for hours and days without even being able to drink water, eat or go to the toilet. » All this, for “five pieces of paper”, adds Sonia, referring to the five price tags that Sasha replaced.
Since last April, Sonia has been allowed to visit Sasha twice a month for an hour. “We talk about our dreams, our plans for the future and what we can do once this is over and we can move to another country,” she reports. Sasha, who draws, hopes that she can continue to promote her art, while Sonia cherishes the desire to work for Amnesty International.
But on Friday, a new tile fell on the couple. The Kremlin has announced that it will ask the Russian Supreme Court to ban the “international LGBT social movement” on grounds of “extremism”.
“They want to have the LGBT movement recognized as an organization “extremist, even if it is not an organization, but rather individuals who have a sexual orientation other than heterosexuality”, denounces Sonia.
According to her, the Russian government decrees laws that are deliberately vague to keep citizens in anguish. “In this way, many people feel threatened and feel that they can become a target. »