Sasha Skochilenko shows a victory sign standing behind bars in the court room before a hearing in the Vasileostrovsky district court in St. Petersburg, Russia. AP
More than 100 Russian doctors signed an open letter published on Saturday that demands the immediate release of an artist and musician who was sentenced to seven years in prison for swapping supermarket price tags with anti-war messages.
The letter calling for Sasha Skochilenko to be freed was addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and warned that time in prison could lead to a "significant deterioration” in the 33-year-old artist's health.
Skochilenko was "diagnosed with a number of severe chronic diseases that require proper medical supervision and a special diet,” states the letter, which goes on to note the doctors’ indignation at the "obvious injustice of the verdict.”
A Russian court sentenced Skochilenko on Thursday. She was arrested in her native St. Petersburg in April 2022 and charged with spreading false information about the military with her messages opposing the war in Ukraine.
"The Russian army bombed an arts school in Mariupol. Some 400 people were hiding in it from the shelling,” one replaced price tag read. Another said, "Russian conscripts are being sent to Ukraine. Lives of our children are the price of this war.”
A customer at the supermarket who found the slogans reported them to authorities. Skochilenko did not deny but rejected the accusation of spreading knowingly false information.
Skochilenko’s arrest came about a month after authorities adopted a law effectively criminalizing any public expression about the war that deviates from the official Kremlin line. The legislation has been used in a widespread crackdown on opposition politicians, human rights activists and ordinary citizens critical of the Kremlin, with many receiving lengthy prison terms.
Because Skochilenko was in custody for nearly 19 months before her trial, her seven-year sentence will be reduced by more than two years since every day served in a pre-trial detention center counts as 1.5 days of time served in a regular penal colony.
But she has struggled while in custody due to health problems that include a congenital heart defect, bipolar disorder and celiac disease, her lawyers and partner have said.
Russia’s most prominent human rights group, Memorial, a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has declared Skochilenko a political prisoner.
According to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors political arrests and provides legal aid, a total of 19,834 Russians were arrested between Feb. 24 2022, when the war in Ukraine began, and late October of this year for speaking out or demonstrating against the war.
Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95% died from gunshot wounds.
President Zelensky said conditions in Mariupol, which has seen the worst fighting of the nearly eight-week long war, continued to worsen, though Reuters witnesses said a few dozen civilians managed to leave the city on Wednesday in a small bus convoy.
The Arab League (AL) says the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan and Sudan met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Ahemd Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, also joined the meeting.
"We are contributing to the loss and damage fund with 100 million euros to help achieve the goals of this COP28," she told an event at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
"We welcome all of you to your country, the Emirates, and we welcome all the delegations that came for the climate conference, and we thank God and thank Him for what He has bestowed upon us. Our love for the blessing of the earth is a reality. For us in the UAE, the issue of protecting the environment is not just a slogan; In fact, it is an integral part of our history, heritage and life.”
Designed to bridge the climate financing gap and facilitate affordable access, the fund aims to stimulate the raising and investment of $250 billion by 2030. This was revealed during Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed’s opening of the World Climate Action Summit, held during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) at Expo City Dubai.