Russian director reacts to 6-year jail sentence for ‘justifying terrorism’ — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Russian director reacts to 6-year jail sentence for ‘justifying terrorism’

Yevgenia Berkovich awaits her verdict at a military court in Moscow, 8 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / STRINGER

Yevgenia Berkovich awaits her verdict at a military court in Moscow, 8 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / STRINGER

Director Yevgenia Berkovich has made her first public comment since she and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk were both sentenced to six years in prison on Monday for their production of a play that was ruled by a Moscow court to have “justified terrorism”.

Pledging to “fight on” in a post on her Telegram channel on Tuesday, Berkovich thanked those who had supported her throughout her year-long detention and trial, stressing that her life was not over. “Prison is not a grave, a prison term is not endless,” Berkovich wrote.

Berkovich and Petriychuk’s controversial play, Finist, The Brave Falcon, told the stories of Russian women who travelled to Syria during the civil war to marry IS members they had met online. Although the play received two of Russia’s most prestigious theatre awards in 2022, the play was later condemned by the Russian authorities who claimed that the production had “glorified terrorists”.

As the trial was held behind closed doors, neither Berkovich nor Petriychuk’s final statements to the court have been made available to the public. Petriychuk has yet to comment on her sentence.

After the trial concluded, Berkovich and Petriychuk’s lawyer, Ksenia Karpinskaya, told journalists outside the court that the legal proceedings had been “absolutely illegal and unfair” and said that they would be appealing the verdict.

The trial has been heavily criticised by multiple high-profile Russian cultural figures, including theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov. “I am sure that Sveta and Zhenya will not serve a full sentence. They will be released before these six years. And their places will be taken by the scoundrels who torture and kill before our very eyes,” Serebrennikov wrote on Telegram.

“This trial will end up in textbooks,” wrote one of Russia’s best-known authors, Boris Akunin, who noted that this was the first time a prison sentence had been “handed down for a theatre performance in Russia.”

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