Political prisoners. Sasha Skochilenko, the artist who was sentenced to 7 years for anti‑war price tags
Political prisoners. Sasha Skochilenko, the artist who was sentenced to 7 years for anti‑war price tags
1 April 2024, 16:01

Art by Maria Tolstova / Mediazona

Sasha Skochilenko, 33, is an artist and musician from St. Petersburg. She graduated the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the St. Petersburg university cum laude, worked as an illustrator, photographer, cinematographer, editor, construction worker. But her real passion has always been music, art—and fighting for humane attitudes toward people who are facing mental challenges. A month into Russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine, Sasha came to a supermarket on Vasilyevsky Island and swapped five price tags for stickers with completely different numbers: data on deaths and destruction of the war. Skochilenko was sentenced to 7 years for spreading “fake news” about the Russian army, even though doctors warned: she may die in prison. Watch our video about Sasha.

“I do not support the war in Ukraine!” posted artist and musician Sasha Skochilenko on Instagram on February 24, 2022. The same day, she joined an anti-war protest in St. Petersburg. A mere month and a half later, she became one of the first people charged under the newly passed criminal article outlawing “fake news” about the Russian army. Skochilenko was arrested for replacing price tags at a supermarket with anti-war stickers and spent more than a year and a half in pre-trial detention. Her trial became one of the most high-profile cases in the country, partially because of the unprecedented pressure Sasha faced from the jail administration, the judge, and the prosecution. The 33-year-old artist was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In her closing statement in court, Sasha said: “Despite being behind bars, I am freer than you. I can make my own decisions, say what I think, quit my job if I’m forced to do something I don’t want to. I have no enemies, I’m not afraid of being penniless or even homeless. I’m not scared of not making a brilliant career, appearing ridiculous, vulnerable, or strange. I’m not afraid to be different from others. Perhaps that’s why my state is so afraid of me and others like me and keeps me caged like a dangerous animal.

But man is not a wolf to man. It’s easy to be angry at each other over different positions, but loving each other, trying to understand and find compromises is very hard. So unbearably hard that sometimes it seems impossible—at such moments, violence or coercion seem like the only way out. But it’s not! We need to learn to love and resolve conflicts through words—this is the only way to climb out of the moral crisis we find ourselves in.”

Now Sasha Skochilenko is still in the pre-trial detention centre in St Petersburg - she is waiting for an appeal. It feels like a respite. There are no more gruelling daily meetings, no more interrogations, no more mocking prosecutors and rude bailiffs. But this does not mean that Sasha and her loved ones no longer need our support. You can send letters to her and show your support, but make sure to write in Russian, otherwise the prison censors won't let the letter through.

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