Russia interrogates artists linked to exiled activist fighting in Ukraine

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Russia interrogated artists and activists in several cities on Tuesday, reportedly in connection with a case against a well-known exiled activist who says he is fighting in Ukraine.

Moscow has carried out a sweeping crackdown since the start of its military offensive in Ukraine and authorities are particularly on alert ahead of a president election this week that is set to extend Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

For the latest updates on the Russia-Ukraine war, visit our dedicated page.

Several Russian independent media and rights groups said about a dozen artists had been interrogated in several cities.

The groups reported they had been targeted by raids in connection with a possible new case against Petr Verzilov -- an exile who has said he is fighting with Ukrainian forces.

Mediazona, a website that Verzilov founded and then left to go and fight in Ukraine, said the raids took place mostly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg but also in Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Ulyanovsk and Samara.

Rights group OVD-info said FSB security services in Moscow had interrogated Olga Pakhtusova, a member of the Pussy Riot art collective of which Verzilov was a part.

It also said artists Alexandra Kachko and Vladlena Milkina were questioned in Saint Petersburg.

Mediazona said that six people were interrogated in Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Ulyanovsk.

Verzilov was sentenced in absentia late last year to eight and a half years in prison.

He was convicted of breaking Russia’s strict censorship rules by denouncing Moscow’s Ukraine offensive.

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In October 2023, he told a Russian YouTuber that he was engaged in combat in Ukraine.

Independent media suspect the authorities have now launched a new treason case against him.

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