February 20, 2023

Another Political Prisoner


Another Political Prisoner
A penitential center in Moscow. Senate of Russian Federation, Flickr.

On February 15, a court in Barnaul sentenced Maria Ponomarenko, an independent journalist notorious for her anti-corruption investigations, to six years in prison for spreading "fakes" about the Russian army.

Criminal processing was triggered by a post in the Telegram channel Nashi Dny published in mid-March 2022. Apparently, Ponomarenko wrote that the Russian army carried out an airstrike on a drama theater in Mariupol that caused the death of many civilians.

The airstrike happened on March 16 and was recognized by the OSCE and Amnesty International as a war crime by the Russian army. However, according to a story fabricated by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the theater was blown up by Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment. 

According to Sever Realiy, Maria Ponomarenko was arrested and detained for spreading "fakes" back in April 2022 and spent ten months in custody; she spent time under house arrest, in a pre-trial detention center, and in a psychiatric clinic. While in custody, Ponomarenko attempted suicide because of the harsh conditions of her solitary confinement.

At the last court hearing, the journalist said that she would pass this new test without tears and tantrums, and Putin's regime would collapse before she would be released.

"They will sentence me to prison. Do you think I will cry or fall into hysterics? No. This is just a new stage of my life. And believe me, there are many more decent people behind bars than in The United Russia party. Patriotism is love for the Motherland. And love for the Motherland should not manifest itself in encouraging crimes. Corruption is a crime, an attack on a neighbor is a crime," Ponomarenko said.

This is far from the first case of criminal persecution for statements about the war in Ukraine. OVD.Info has reported that, by December 2022, over 370 Russians had been simiulary prosecuted. 

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