An acclaimed theater director and playwright have been arrested in Russia and accused of “justifying terrorism” for their play about Russian women being recruited online to marry Islamic State fighters in Syria.
Yevgenia Berkovich was arrested on Friday alongside the play’s author, Svetlana Petriychuk, after investigators alleged that their award-winning play “Finist, the Bright Falcon” was in violation of the law.
Prosecutors argue the work “romanticizes, justifies and glorifies terrorists” as well as promoting the “ideology of radical feminism”, Russian state media TASS reported.
It was staged in 2021 by Berkovich’s own company, with the support of the Union of Theater Workers of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, according to independent news website Meduza.
The play won two “Golden Mask” national theater awards last year. Berkovich also received a nomination for best director.
Theater critics described the production as “exposing the mechanics of terrorism.”
The 38-year-old Berkovich was remanded in custody for two months until July 4, despite her lawyers asking if she could be granted house arrest to take care of her two adopted, disabled daughters.
The charges against her carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
The arrests shocked Russia’s shrinking theater community and prompted independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta to publish an open letter in support of Berkovich and Petriychuk, calling on Russian authorities to “persecute murderers instead of poets.”
In a separate development, authorities in St Petersburg temporarily closed the Maly Drama theater with one of its actors Danila Kozlovsky facing investigation for anti-war posts.
Russia’s cultural scene has faced increased repression since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Prominent figures have been purged from their jobs and some have faced criminal cases.