Russia: Release activist jailed for satirical street action with Putin’s mannequin

Aleksandr Shabarchin, an activist who was jailed over a satirical video featuring a homemade mannequin of President Vladimir Putin, will have his appeal heard by Perm Krai Court tomorrow. Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksandr Shabarchin, and also calls for the conviction of his fellow activist Danila Vasiliev to be quashed.

Aleksandr Shabarchin and Danila Vasiliev were arrested in November 2018 after they taped a mannequin wearing a mask of President Putin to a lamp post in Perm’s city centre. On the forehead of the mannequin was the word “liar”, and a poster reading “war criminal” was also attached. They later uploaded a video to YouTube which featured actors “interrogating” the mannequin. In August 2020 Aleksandr Shabarchin was sentenced to two years in a penal colony and is imprisoned since then, while Danila Vasiliev, who was under 18 at the time of the incident, received a one-year suspended sentence and a year’s probation.

“Aleksandr Shabarchin is a peaceful activist who has frequently conducted pickets and street performances to express his views on the Russian government. Although the video he posted may have been offensive or disturbing to some, his action falls within the scope of the right to freedom of expression, which Russia has committed to upholding as a party to the international human rights treaties,” said Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher.

Aleksandr Shabarchin is a peaceful activist who has frequently conducted pickets and street performances to express his views on the Russian government. Although the video he posted may have been offensive or disturbing to some, his action falls within the scope of the right to freedom of expression
Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher

“He did not call for violence and his arrest is typical of the Russian authorities’ harsh response to criticism. Aleksandr Shabarchin is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and he must be immediately and unconditionally released. The conviction of Danila Vasiliev must also be overturned.”

Aleksandr Shabarchin and Danila Vasiliev were convicted of “premeditated violation of the public order committed by a group of people”, under a vaguely-worded article of Russia’s Criminal Code, previously also used to prosecute and imprison members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot.

“These activists are the latest to fall victim to the Russian authorities’ misuse of vague laws aimed at silencing critics. This unjust sentence should be overturned and both young men should be able to continue their peaceful activism without fear of persecution,” said Natalia Prilutskaya.