Solidarity for Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko

A week into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russia introduced war censorship laws to make protest against the invasion a grave offence. Maria Ponomarenko has been imprisoned for sharing information about the deadly Mariupol theatre attack. Authorities claimed it was “false”. Her ill-treatment in detention has led to the deterioration of her mental health. She needs your support now.

What’s the problem?

Maria Ponomarenko is a journalist and activist from Barnaul in Western Siberia. On 23 April 2022, she was detained for sharing a Telegram post about the bombing of the Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine. It contained a video from the theatre made before the attack and a short comment condemning civilian deaths.

Start speaking, and it will become clear that there are many of us.

Maria Ponomarenko

In detention, her mental health deteriorated. As part of the investigation, she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital for an examination. She was forcibly injected with unknown drugs and treated brutally.

On 15 February 2023, Maria was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a five-year ban on engaging in journalism on her release. She was initially sent to a penal colony 900km from her home town, meaning it was impossible for her to see her daughters .

After severe ill-treatment and unfair punishments, she staged a hunger strike in October 2023. She was dragged by guards, barefoot, to a disciplinary hearing. Afterwards, she was subjected to further forcible psychiatric treatment.

Maria has spoken about the importance of messages in detention. She says, “it’s as if wings grow from them, they give a sense of freedom”. She faces a second sentence and possibly five more years in prison. Your solidarity can bring her hope.

What you can do to help

Send a message of support to Maria Ponomarenko now to show her she is not alone. Together we are more powerful.