Another court hearing took place on 2 November. The public prosecutor’s office again applied for an extension of the pre-trial detention without presenting any evidence that the theatre makers were guilty. The court granted the public prosecutor’s request and extended the period of pre-trial detention until 10 January 2024.
In solidarity with those arrested, Berlin-based Russian-language theatre director Oleg Hristolübskiy staged a staged reading of “Finist, heller Falke” with Berlin actresses Katharina Spiering, Suse Wächter and Elisabeth Heckel, which was shown in Berlin on 28 November and 7 December, followed by discussions.
On 14 December, a Moscow court sentenced Russian playwright and director Ivan Vyrypaev in absentia to eight years in a penal colony. The prosecution had asked for a ten-year sentence. In May, Vyrypaev was put on the wanted list and arrested in absentia. It emerged in court that the case had been opened in October last year.
The playwright was found guilty in the case of disseminating “fakes” about the Russian military motivated by political hatred (Article 207.3, Part 2, Paragraph “d” of the Criminal Code). The court referred to Vyrypaevs public statements and interviews including an open letter to the Russian theatres from March last year where he has informed all Russian state theatres in which his plays have been performed that the money he receives from them will be donated to Ukrainian funds to support refugees.
A Moscow court has ruled on Friday, May 5th, that both artists must remain in custody until at least 4 July. Both are accused of “justifying terrorism” in their play “Finist, the Brave Falcon”, an ironic play about Russian women recruited by the Islamic State that Berkovich’s independent theater company, SOSO Daughters, produced. “Finist” premiered in 2020 and was awarded Best Text at the most important Russian theatre festival Golden Mask 2022. Authorities also detained the company’s director, Alexander Andriyevich. The court thus complied with a request by investigators, as the state agency Tass reported. Authorities raided the homes of Berkovich’s mother Jelena Efross and her 88-year-old grandmother, the writer Nina Katerli in St. Petersburg the same day.
The 38-year-old Berkovich is one of the few outstanding theatre directors of her generation who did not go into exile after 24 February 2022 and, despite everything, tried to continue making contemporary theatre in the warring homeland. She studied directing under Kirill Serebrennikov at the Moscow Art Theater School and writes poetry. Berkovich is also known as a translator and librettist.
The author of “Finist, the Brave Falcon”, Svetlana Petriychuk, studied international journalism and filmmaking in Los Angeles and theater in Moscow under the renowned directors Kama Ginkas and Mikhail Ugarov. Her socially critical plays regularly appear on the shortlists of drama contests and festivals and on the playbills of leading theatres in Russia.
The charge is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Novaya Gazeta published a petition (Google Docs, Russian) supporting the two women and calling for their immediate release. The petition has already more than 12,000 signatures.
The trial against Yulia Tsvetkova was held behind closed doors mid of July. The 29 years old feminist and LGBT activist was facing a maximum of six years in prison and has been acquitted of controversial “pornography” charges (see ACAR’s previous posts 1, 2, 3). Tsvetkova’s case drew international attention after she was placed under house arrest in 2019 . Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam acquired her works. In June, Tsvetkova was added to the Russian justice ministry’s list of “foreign agents.”
“With regard to the future of the drawings, the court has clearly expressed its findings that the original position and context in which these drawings were included do not allow them to be considered pornographic,” he said. This is important not only for Yulia, but also for the entire artistic, museum, and academic community, which, in the event of a guilty verdict (and given the possibility of an appeal, this risk still remains) may be forced to put underwear on ancient sculptures.” (Aleksandr Pikhovkin, Yulia Tsvetkova’s lawyer)
Alexandra (Shasha) Skochilenko, is a russian artist and musician. She replaced price tags at supermarkets in St Petersburg with news reports about bombings in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. On April 11 she had been detained and accused of carrying out serious actions against public safety and spreading fake news about the Russian military. Her case had been reclassified from a criminal case to a more severe one of the same article, entailing from 5 to 10 years in prison. The investigation has extended Sasha’s pre-trial detention several times, now until July 1st.
The telegram group for support is: https://t.me/skochilenko_sud.