Russian theatre director accused of ‘justifying terrorism’ remanded in custody

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A prominent Russian theatre director was remanded in custody for two months on Friday after being accused of justifying terrorism with an award-winning play about Russian women who married Islamic State fighters, the state news agency TASS reported.

Investigators opened a case this week against Yevgenia (Zhenya) Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, alleging that Petriychuk’s “Finist, the Brave Falcon”, which premiered in 2020 under Berkovich’s direction, had broken the law.

Since Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine last year, Moscow has intensified a clampdown on freedom of expression, and encouraged citizens to report anyone they suspect of demonstrating disloyalty.

“Finist, the Brave Falcon” won two “Golden Mask” national theatre awards last year, and Berkovich also received a nomination for best director.

The detention of the two women has drawn condemnation from several prominent Russian artists and cultural figures.

Journalist Ksenia Sobchak said the case against them showed “rampant ignorance”, and that the play in fact had an anti-terrorist message.

“The heroines leave their families, their universities, their jobs and go into hell to their new lovers, who promise them love and a happy life,” she wrote on her Telegram channel.

“There they first become semi-slaves in the militant units and then return to their homeland as prisoners. It’s clear that the production has an anti-terrorist message.”

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jonathan Oatis)