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Russian Fridays For Future youth climate activist jailed for six days

Arshak Makichyan, who has held climate strikes for 40 weeks straight as part of the Fridays For Future (FFF) youth movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, has been sentenced to six days in jail for an October 25 protest. Greenpeace Russia coordinator Konstantin Fomin posted online about the ruling from the Meshchansky District Court. The sentence represents the first time an FFF activist has been jailed in Russia; it may be the first time an FFF member has been held for their activities for multiple days anywhere in the world.

On October 25, Makichyan and two other activists brought three signs to Moscow’s Suvorov Square. One was a large banner in English that read “climate emergency,” one was a small cardboard sign in Russian that read “strike for climate” in the style of Thunberg’s now-famous original sign, and the third read, again in Russian, “the climate crisis will absolutely affect you.”

In Russia, any public event involving more than a single individual must by law receive a permit. However, government officials can easily deny permits arbitrarily. The three Fridays For Future activists were likewise denied a permit for their protest, but they believed the denial itself was illegal. Therefore, rather than taking turns holding a sign one at a time in the “individual picket” format to which Russian protest movements often resort, they protested together as planned.

While Russian-language coverage of the Russian climate movement remains sparse, the country’s FFF activists in dozens of cities have gained increasing coverage in other languages and, most recently, held a meeting with a climate advisor in Vladimir Putin’s administration. However, the group’s day-to-day efforts have been marked by regular permit denials and threats of harassment or arrest.