War Protestors Facing Jail Time in Russia

Those who oppose the war in Russia are on thin ice with the Kremlin. One false move, if you go public in your disagreement with Putin on the war in Ukraine, you could be fined or even put in jail. The media in Russia have been clearly warned about the words they use in describing the nation’s actions. They should not call it a war, but an incursion. And now there is even legislation that has been put in place to keep people from discrediting the Russian army. You could face 15 years in prison.

Alexandra Skochilenko, an artist and musician from St. Petersburg, has been in detention for almost two months. She replaced price tags at a local supermarket with pieces of paper that had messages about the Russian army’s activity in Ukraine. 

The messages include information about how the Russian army bombed an art school in Mariupol where 400 people were hiding from the shelling. Another of Skochilenko’s messages said that Putin has been lying to the Russian people for 20 years and it has led to the country being willing to justify “war and senseless deaths.”

Yana Nepovinnova is Skochilenko’s lawyer. She told NBC News that her client’s actions were made known by a customer who complained. So now she is facing charges of speeding “deliberately false information” about the Russian army. She is facing up to 10 years in prison, which is more than some people get for murder in Russia. 

When the war first started in Ukraine, thousands of Russians were in the streets voicing their opposition. But that has almost completely diminished now due to police violence and mass arrests. The Russian propaganda machine also convinced many that most Russians support the “special military operation” in Ukraine. 

So the dissent is left to those individuals who are willing to work alone and even pay a price. 

Protestors Detained For Months

Artur Dmitriev lives in St. Petersburg and has been detained since early April. He held a sign that said, “The war has brought so much grief that it is impossible to forget. There is no forgiveness for those who are making aggressive plans again.”

This sign was an abbreviated but direct quote from a speech that Putin made last year at the Russian celebration of victory over Nazi Germany. Dmitriev was found guilty of “discrediting Russian armed forces,” according to the court information obtained by NBC News. He was fined 30,000 rubles, or $520. 

“It’s obvious where we are headed. It’s classical Orwell,” Dmitriev said. “If you are standing aside, you are only making it worse. But if you do this, you are letting people know that they are not alone.” 

Mikhail Podivilov is an IT specialist who simply held up his bank card over his head in a crowd. The word on the card is “Mir,” or “peace,” in Russian. It is the name of a Russian payment system that many bank cards feature. He was questioned by police after just five minutes. They bullied him for about an hour before they let him go. He was surprised when they let him go. When asked about his fear, he said that “In Ukraine, that’s where people can be afraid. The maximum that can happen to me is I will get jailed.”

Eugene, an artist, and activist, said that the fear for many is too much to bear. He does not give his last name, but he offers a way for people to protest anonymously. Since March, he has been running an Instagram account called Malensky Piket or “Little Protest.”The purpose is to provide a safe place where people can send in figurines and hold a peace message. Eugene believes he is giving ordinary Russians a chance to speak up amid omnipresent fear.