TALLINN – A Russian court on Friday extended the pretrial detention of a theater director and a playwright facing charges of justifying terrorism, the latest move in a relentless crackdown on dissent in Russia that spiked after the start of the war in Ukraine.
The court ordered Zhenya Berkovich, a prominent independent theater director, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk held until Sept. 10; they have been behind bars since early May.
Authorities claim a play they staged, “Finist, the Brave Falcon,” justifies terrorism, which is a criminal offense in Russia punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The play depicts Russian women who faced prosecution after being lured into marriage and life in Syria by representatives of radical Islam.
Immediately after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin unleashed a sweeping campaign of repression, one unparalleled since the Soviet era. It has effectively criminalized any criticism of the war.
Pressure mounted on artists who were critical of the war. Actors and directors were fired from state-run theaters, and musicians were blacklisted from performing in the country. Some were labeled as foreign agents, a designation that carries additional government scrutiny and strong negative connotations. Many left Russia.
The Russian Justice Ministry said Friday that Boris Grebenshchikov, considered a founder of Russia's rock music scene, was added to the list of foreign agents. Grebenshchikov, who has lived in the West since 2018, is also reportedly under investigation for discrediting Russia's military.