- The artist replaced the price tags with anti-war messages
- Skoshilenko said she wanted to stop the conflict in Ukraine
- The prosecutor wanted to imprison her for eight years
- The artist appealed to the judge for mercy and wisdom
Nov 16 (Reuters) – A Russian artist who replaced supermarket prices with messages demanding an end to Moscow’s war in Ukraine was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday for deliberately spreading false information about the Russian military.
A St. Petersburg court issued the ruling hours after 33-year-old artist Alexandra Skochelenko made a final statement before the court, asking the presiding judge to exercise wisdom and mercy and release her.
Skoshilenko was banned from using the Internet for three years in addition to a seven-year prison sentence. The public prosecutor had requested her imprisonment for eight years.
Her supporters repeatedly chanted “Shame, shame!” After the ruling, a smiling Skochilenko drew a heart shape with her hands as she stood in a courtroom cage surrounded by police officers.
The artist, who had already spent more than a year and a half in prison, admitted to replacing price tags in a supermarket on March 31, 2022, with pieces of paper urging an end to the war and criticizing the authorities.
But she denied the official charge of intentionally spreading false information about the army.
Critics say the case is part of a crackdown on anyone who speaks out against Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, which has led to nearly 20,000 arrests and more than 800 criminal cases.
After sending troops into Ukraine early last year, Russia tightened its laws on dissent in an attempt to silence critics while objecting to what President Vladimir Putin portrays as an existential conflict with the West.
In her final statement, Skoshilenko told the judge that she is a pacifist and values human life above all else.
“Whatever decision you make, you will go down in history,” Skoshilenko told the judge, according to a recording of her speech made by her supporters.
“You can show how to resolve conflict with the help of words and compassion.”
Skochelenko’s lawyers told the court that their client had committed no crime and would not escape prison because of celiac disease, a severe intolerance to gluten. Amnesty International declared her a “prisoner of conscience.”
Skoshilenko also addressed the state prosecutor who asked for a long prison sentence during her last statement.
“What are you going to tell your children? That you once imprisoned a beloved artist who was seriously ill over five pieces of paper?” She said.
“I am not afraid, and perhaps this is precisely why my government is afraid of me, and keeps me in a cage like the most dangerous animal.”
Reporting by Reuters, Writing by Andrew Osborne, Editing by Barbara Lewis, Kevin Levy, Alexandra Hudson
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