Sasha Skochilenko: Russian Artist in Pretrial Detention Center for Anti-War Protest at Market
A Russian artist, Sasha Skochilenko (b. 1990), has been detained in a Russian pretrial detention center for over a year since she was arrested for placing anti-Russian army notes in place of price tags at a market stall as an artistic protest. This protest was noted and immediately reported it and Skochilenko to the Russian authorities.
Skochilenko, interrogated for eleven days following the report, was eventually seized and taken to the detention center on claims of spreading “fake news about the Russian army” in violation of the Russian law that prohibited the dissemination of “knowingly false” information and discrediting the Russian army, with penalties of prison up to 10 years and hefty fines. However, the prosecution remained vague on how exactly the information in Skochilenko’s protest was “knowingly false.”
At the first hearing in Skochilenko’s case in April 2022, the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution, despite a history of siding with activists, and declined to grant Skochilenko house arrest due to her celiac disease and bipolar disorder, instead claiming that she was a flight risk and sentencing her to remain in a pretrial detention center in St. Petersburg, where she has remained since. Her next hearing is scheduled for July 2023, and her defense attorney is also now facing unknown disciplinary charges, which will be heard in April 2023 and may cost him his law license.
To highlight Skochilenko’s predicament, the Koppel Project in London has created an exhibit featuring her art made in prison. The exhibit is located in a repurposed police station, with many of her drawings hung in the former cells, emphasizing their origin and her state. Visitors are able to write Skochilenko notes about what they would want to do to help her. Skochilenko has stated that the public outcry since her arrest and year-long detention has provided some help to her, even if she is still in prison because the prison guards are now afraid to harm her. In her own words, “But behind my back, the colossal civil society has risen. If only YOU could see how polite the high-profile officials are with me now. I scare them like a flame, and no one has laid a finger on me here—and it’s not because of me, but because of YOU all: independent media, journalists, civil activists, performers, human rights activists, free hippies, musicians and artists, and also just peace-loving men and women with a conscience and empathy.”