war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

18-year-old Russian imprisoned for Shevchenko poem on anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Halya Coynash
Russia really has descended into its repressive past, with Darya Kozyreva imprisoned and facing insane criminal charges for posting lines from Taras Shevchenko’s Testament

Darya Kozyreva Photo SOTA

Darya Kozyreva Photo SOTA

A court in St Petersburg has remanded 18-year-old Darya Kozyreva in custody after she was arrested over a poster with an excerpt from the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s Testament.  She is now facing grotesque charges of repeat ‘discrediting of Russia’s armed forces’ under one of the draconian charges rushed into legislation after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and could face a five-year prison sentence.

The detention order was issued by the Petrogradsky district court on 27 February, around the same time that a Moscow court was sentencing 70-year-old  Oleg Orlov, world-renowned human rights defender and Memorial Head to two and a half years’ imprisonment on the same charge for an article in which he condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine and the country’s descent into fascism.  SOTA reported that the court hearing had been held behind closed doors, purportedly due to the presence of ‘state secrets’.  Such a claim is especially baffling given the pretext for her arrest, namely her public demonstration of the following excerpt from Taras Shevchenko’s Testament on the monument to the poet.

«Поховайте та вставайте,           Oh bury me, then rise ye up

Кайдани порвіте                          And break your heavy chains

І вражою злою кровʼю                 And water with the tyrants' blood

Волю окропіте!».                          The freedom you have gained.

                                                                 (translation  John Weir)

The police were, reportedly, unable to remove the poster immediately, and instead covered it over with a black bag.  Darya was taken to the police station where she was held for almost four hours with the lawyer, sent by OVD-Info, illegally prevented from seeing her.  Officers initially drew up a protocol of detention over supposed failure to obey the police. That was absurd but would have only entailed administrative prosecution.  Instead, they either added, or switched to, criminal charges, namely Article 280.3 § 1 of Russia’s criminal code.  The criminal charges were because Darya had already been convicted in 2023 of the same charge of ‘discrediting the Russian armed forces’ under Article 20.3.3 of the code of administrative offences.  This was over anti-war posts in social media, however she is also reported to have been detained over other protests against Russia’s war while still underage. In December 2022, she was detained for writing on an installation showing ‘two hearts’ about Mariupol, the city Russia relentlessly bombed, as supposed ‘sister city to St Petersburg .  Darya wrote on it: “Murderers, you bombed it, Judases”.  In January 2023, criminal charges were laid of ‘damage to property’

In January 2024, Kozyreva was expelled from the St Petersburg medical institute with the grounds given being an administrative prosecution for supposed ‘discrediting of the Russian armed forces.”  This was, in fact, over a post from 4 March 2022, the day that Russia hastily passed into law several new charges aimed at silencing criticism of the war against Ukraine.

It remains to be seen whether Darya’s ‘trial’ gets hidden behind closed doors. It is certainly hard to imagine how the prosecution plans to demonstrate intent to discredit Russia’s armed forces in Shevchenko’s poem written from Russian exile well over 150 years ago.  The fact that the young woman was arrested and is to be tried over a poem by Shevchenko is, however, indicative of just how far Russia really has descended into its repressive past.  In Soviet times, Ukrainians were regularly detained for laying flowers at monuments to Taras Shevchenko, or publicly reciting his poems on the anniversaries of his birth and death (9 and 10 March, respectively).

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