Price tag protest St. Petersburg artist faces prison time for spreading information about civilian deaths in besieged Mariupol
On Wednesday, April 13, a district court in St. Petersburg jailed artist Sasha Skochilenko until May 31, pending trial on charges of spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine.
As reported by local news outlet Bumaga, the judge who elected to jail Skochilenko noted that the artist might hide or destroy evidence relevant to the case, that she wasn’t living at her registered address, and that she has “a sister in France,” “friends in Ukraine,” and a “friend [living] in emigration.” The judge also recalled that Skochilenko was previously charged with a misdemeanor for organizing a large-scale public gathering, Bumaga writes.
The judge did not take into account the arguments presented by the defense. This was despite the fact that St. Petersburg legislators Boris Vishnevsky and Mikhail Amosov, politician Lev Shlosberg, and municipal deputy Sergey Troshin offered personal guarantees that Skochilenko wouldn’t evade investigation, reports Mediazona.
The prosecution asked that Skochilenko be jailed until June, while the defense requested non-custodial restrictions ahead of the trial. The defendant’s lawyer also underscored that she has bipolar disorder and requires a strict, gluten-free diet due to celiac disease.
Charges were brought against Skochilenko under Criminal Code Article 207.3 — a statute outlawing the dissemination of “false information” about the Russian Armed Forces that was adopted after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The artist was charged after she replaced the price tags in a St. Petersburg grocery store with information about the bombing of the Drama Theater in Mariupol and the number of civilians killed in the besieged city.
The case was launched after one of the grocery store’s customers noticed the “price tags” contacted the police. Skochilenko was identified using surveillance camera footage. The artist does not deny that she was responsible for the anti-war messages, but she insists that she wasn’t spreading “knowingly false information.”
According to Bumaga, a publication Skochilenko has collaborated with in the past, the artist was charged under part 2 of Article 207.3, which stipulates fines ranging from three million to five million rubles (approximately $36,500 to $60,800), or three to five years of penal labor, or five to ten years in prison.
Skochilenko’s case is the first one launched in St. Petersburg under Criminal Code Article 207.3, according to Bumaga.
The idea of replacing price tags with information about Russia’s war against Ukraine first surfaced on the Telegram channel Feminist Antiwar Resistance after the start of the full-scale invasion, reports Mediazona.
Authorities in Smolensk were the first to open a criminal case over anti-war “price tags,” pressing charges against 37-year-old Vladimir Zavyalov. Like Skochilenko, Zavyalov swapped out the price tags at a local supermarket. Several administrative cases have been launched over similar protests actions in Kazan, St. Petersburg, and Tula.