Up to 10 years imprisonment for a publication that has received fewer than 5 “likes”.

In the first days of the war they called out their opposition by the thousands. But since then, the Russian repressive machine has done its job. As the Russian army annihilates Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s regime completes the rest of freedom of speech in the land of the tsars. However, some Russian dissidents are defying the bans at the risk of their safety. The duty discussed with some of them or with their relatives. Last portrait of a series of four.

Victoria Petrova, who has been in prison since May 6, could receive a sentence of 5 to 10 years for posting a message condemning the war in Ukraine on the Russian social network VK. A publication that has collected a maximum of five likes says its lawyer Anastasia Pilipenko.

The young woman, who does not describe herself as an activist but as “a person who cares for others”, faces criminal charges of willfully spreading “false information” about the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine.

“The new law [interdisant de critiquer l’armée russe et l’invasion de l’Ukraine] aims to silence people who oppose the government’s official discourse, the lawyer denounced in an interview Have to. We are told the information is “true” just because the Secretary of Defense tells us so. It cannot be disputed or debated. »

In her message published on VK on March 23, Victoria Petrova claimed that the campaign conducted by the Russian army in Ukraine violates international law and Russian law, admits Mrs.e Pilipenko.

Accompanying this release, the 28-year-old had released videos from Russian independent media and international media. “And she wrote at the end of her message: ‘To make up your mind, watch these videos and decide what you think about this war.’ ‘ said the lawyer.

This publication was deleted from the social network two days later, “possibly at the request of investigators,” believes Anastasia Pilipenko.


Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Victoria Petrova, who held a senior position in Saint Petersburg, had been arrested twice for taking part in anti-war demonstrations. She was fined for her first offense and served 10 days after her second arrest.

“I think after those two events his social media was monitored. She didn’t try to hide her opinion,” says her lawyer, adding that her client published several messages against the government and the war.

“She has become an easy target for the Russian authorities to demonstrate that anyone can be prosecuted without having to be a journalist, activist or human rights defender. »

The court refused to place Victoria under house arrest pending her trial. On Wednesday, the judge denied a new request by his attorney for Victoria’s release. The young woman will remain in custody until at least July 31.

“It is unusual [comme décision] ‘ denounces Anastasia Pilipenko, who confirms that her client is being held in a prison built before the 1917 Russian Revolution. “In the beginning she was in a cell with 17 other people. »

Victoria cannot receive visitors, except for her lawyer. “Nevertheless, she has no regrets whatsoever about what she did. She didn’t want to be silent. »

True to her beliefs, Victoria Petrova gave a seven-minute speech during one of her court appearances, in which she condemned the war in Ukraine instead of speaking about her prison conditions, Frau reportse Pilipenko. A speech that was applauded by those present, she adds.

Linguistic expertise

As in other similar cases, investigators commissioned a linguistic assessment to determine whether the message posted by Victoria contained any signs of hostility or political hatred.

“The outcome of his trial will depend on the Russian and international political climate,” his lawyer said. If the war ends, it’s possible that his case will be okay. But if everything stays as it is now, the prospects are not very good. »

A situation that is all the more worrying since in early June Russia decided to no longer respect the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which Russian lawyers could appeal.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, they have also faced reprisals for defending anti-war activists. Lawyers fined after speaking in court, woman sayse Pilipenko.

“Anyone who speaks out against the Russian regime is taking risks,” she said. But I think there are too many lawyers in Russia for the government to take action against all of us. »

Nevertheless, she dreams of the moment when freedom of expression will be restored in Russia. “Yes, there is still hope. What else would I do here? »

With Vlada Nebo

To see in the video

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