In a distressing turn of events, a Russian poet has found himself sentenced to seven (7) years in prison for reciting verses critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The verdict was delivered by Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, which convicted Artyom Kamardin on charges of undermining national security and inciting hatred. These charges stem from his performance of anti-war poems during a street event in downtown Moscow in September 2022.
Yegor Shtovba, who also participated in the event and recited Kamardin’s verses, received a 5 1/2-year sentence on the same charges.
The gathering took place near the monument to poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, shortly after President Vladimir Putin ordered a mobilization of 300,000 reservists in response to military setbacks in Ukraine. This unpopular decision led to a mass exodus from Russia as people sought to avoid military conscription.
The performance was quickly dispersed by the police, resulting in the arrest of Kamardin and others involved. Reports from Russian media, as well as Kamardin’s friends and lawyer, allege that he was subjected to police brutality and sexual assault during his arrest. A police video, released by pro-Kremlin media, showed Kamardin apologizing for his actions with a visibly bruised face.
Notably, authorities have taken no action to investigate the alleged abuse by the police.
During the court hearing, Kamardin’s wife, Alexandra Popova, was escorted out by bailiffs after shouting “Shame!” in response to the verdict. Popova, along with several others, was later detained on charges of holding an unsanctioned “rally” outside the court building.
Between February 2022 and the present, 19,847 people have been detained in Russia for speaking out or protesting against the war, according to the OVD-Info rights group. Additionally, 794 individuals face criminal cases over their anti-war stance.
This harsh crackdown is enforced through a law enacted by Moscow shortly after sending troops to Ukraine, effectively criminalizing any public expression deviating from the official narrative on the war.