Russian artist Sasha Skochilenko sentenced to 7 years after replacing price tags with anti-war messages
Artist Alexandra (Sasha) Skochilenko has been jailed for replacing supermarket price tags with slogans protesting against Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, despite her appeal for compassion and wisdom from the judge. The 33-year-old artist, who has already spent a year and a half in prison, was banned from using the internet for the next three years, in addition to her seven-year prison term. A state prosecutor had initially asked for her to be jailed for eight years.
In a courtroom in St Petersburg, Russia, cheers of “Disgrace, Disgrace!” filled the air as Skochilenko, smiling, made a heart shape with her hands as she stood in a courtroom cage, surrounded by police officers. She replaced price tags in a supermarket with pieces of paper urging an end to the war in Ukraine and criticizing the authorities.
The artist, who often spoke out against Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, was part of a crackdown on anyone who spoke against the government’s actions. After sending troops into Ukraine early last year, Russia has tightened its laws on dissent to try to silence critics.
Skochilenko, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease, a severe intolerance to gluten, had told the court that she would not survive jail, which led Amnesty International to declare her a “prisoner of conscience.” She appealed to the judge to exercise words and compassion and to set her free, emphasizing that she values human life above all else.
The convicted artist also challenged the state prosecutor, asking them what they would tell their children, that they jailed a seriously ill artist for five pieces of paper. Despite her defiance, Skochilenko’s lawyers insisted that she had committed no crime, set on proving her innocence.
Andrew Osborn, Russia’s Chief Political Correspondent, led coverage of Skochilenko’s sentencing. Osborn has reported on Russia’s political, economic and social transformation under President Vladimir Putin for much of the last two decades, and wars in Georgia and Ukraine.