Russia: feminist activist could be jailed for ten years for putting anti-war slogans on supermarket labels
Aleksandra Skochilenko ordered to be detained until June by St Petersburg court
Feminist Anti-War Resistance group is coordinating defiant protests against Ukraine war
‘The war is contrary to all goals of the feminist movement’ - activist Ella Rossman
A Russian anti-war artist and musician from Saint Petersburg who replaced price tags in supermarkets with anti-war slogans has been put into pre-trial detention and could face ten years in jail as part of a wider clampdown on feminist-led anti-war activism in the country, said Amnesty International today.
Aleksandra Skochilenko was initially detained on 11 April, before being interrogated until 3am the next morning. Earlier today, Saint Petersburg’s Vasileostrovsky District Court ordered that Skochilenko be put into into pre-trial detention until 1 June after being charged with “discrediting the Russian Armed Forces”. She faces up to ten years in jail.
Today’s court hearing was closed to the public to “preserve the secrecy of the investigation” and “ensure the safety of witnesses.” According to Skochilenko’s lawyer, she was reported to police by a supermarket customer. According to the prosecution in the case, Skochilenko’s supermarket activism on 31 March was an act of “political hostility” that “disseminated false information” about Russia’s armed forces.
Replacing price tags in supermarkets with anti-war messages is one of the actions promoted by the recently-formed Feminist Anti-War Resistance (see below). Launched on 25 February, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the group aims to strengthen Russia’s anti-war movement by establishing a network of feminist groups critical of the conflict.
Skochilenko is the second anti-war activist charged over replacing price tags in supermarkets. On 5 April, Vladimir Zavyalov from Smolensk, Central Russia, was charged with “discreditation of the Russian Armed Forces” under Article 207.3 for his supermarket activism. More than 20 Russian citizens have been charged under Article 207.3, a newly-introduced repressive article of the country’s criminal code.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:
“Cracking down on this feminist-led anti-war movement represents yet another desperate attempt to silence criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Russian authorities continue to wage war against the human rights of Russian people.
“All activists detained for peacefully participating in acts of anti-war dissent must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Feminist Anti-War Resistance
Feminist Anti-War Resistance supporters have used visual campaigning tools, such as leaflets and anti-war graffiti. They also stamp anti-war slogans on banknotes and print out articles from banned independent media, which remain inaccessible within Russia. The activists have launched a hotline to offer psychological support to anti-war activists, and an Anti-War Foundation, which helps those fired from jobs or expelled from universities over their anti-war views.
By 4 April, Feminist Anti-War Resistance said they’d installed 500 wooden crosses in 41 cities to commemorate civilian victims of the war in Ukraine, while at least 3,000 supporters have taken to the streets with anti-war slogans on their clothes in activism known as “silent pickets”.
Feminist Anti-War Resistance women activists have faced harsh reprisals for their activism. At least 100 have been detained, arrested, searched or threatened by the authorities, according to the group.
Yevgenia Isaeva, an artist from Saint Petersburg, was fined 45,000 rubles (£400) on 30 March and later detained for eight days under charges of “hooliganism” over her performance art. Another artist, Yulia Kaburkina from Cheboksary in Central Russia, was detained on 2 April for “discrediting the Russian military” after she attached paper figurines of people holding anti-war posters to price tag labels in a supermarket.
In a Telegram channel, the activists said:
“By replacing something very routine with something alien and unusual, we show that there is not a single place in our country that would not be affected by the war, and we do not let people simply close their eyes to what is happening.”
Ella Rossman, one of the movement’s few public faces, told Amnesty:
“From the outset of the war … we quickly organised ourselves and launched a call stating that the war is contrary to all goals of the feminist movement.”