Russian Poet Sentenced to Prison for Opposing Ukraine War

( — In a move that has since sparked international condemnation, Russian authorities have sentenced a well-known activist and poet to prison for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court found Artyom Kamardin, 33, guilty of inciting hatred and undermining national security by performing his work in public.

The court determined that Kamardin and his friend Yegor Shtovba’s public recitation of anti-war poems in 2022 contravened Part 2 of Article 282 of Russia’s Criminal Code, which deals with hate speech and extremist activities. It classified their actions as illegal incitement and extremism. Kamardin will serve seven years in prison, while Shtovba will serve 5.5.

Kamardin gained widespread attention in September 2022 when he and several friends recited a series of powerful anti-war poems beside a statue of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in downtown Moscow. Hundreds of people gathered to view the performance. Russian police, mirroring the government’s increasing disdain for dissenters at the time, quickly intervened and attempted to scatter the crowd. Kamardin and his friends fled on foot.

According to Leonid Solovyev, the young poet’s lawyer, what happened next was nothing short of shocking. Kamardin was reportedly relaxing at home with his girlfriend, Anna Popova, and a close friend, Aleksandr Menyukov, late on the evening of September 26 when riot police broke into the flat to arrest him. According to his testimony, the officers proceeded to brutally attack everyone in the home and then sexually assaulted him using a dumbbell.

Russian police have yet to confirm or deny these allegations. However, it is important to note that Solovyev told Current Time TV just one day later that his client had been hospitalized as a result of a concussion sustained during the beating.

Kamardin and Shtovba’s sentencing is reigniting debate about freedom of expression in Russia. Their case highlights a troubling trend toward limiting dissenting voices under the guise of national security and public order. However, they are far from the only example of the government’s ongoing attempts to silence critics.

Journalists Svetlana Prokopieva and Denis Kamaliagin, both from Pskov, have experienced the severity of this crackdown firsthand. On March 18, riot police raided their homes without a court order, ostensibly in response to an anonymous Telegram message criticizing the regional governor’s portrayal of soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine.

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