Russia’s relentless crackdown on dissent continued this week after authorities sentenced Jewish director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk to six years in prison on trumped-up charges of “justifying terrorism.”

The case centers around their 2020 play “Finist, the Brave Falcon,” which delved into the stories of Russian women who traveled to Syria to marry ISIS terrorists they had met online. Despite the fact that the play was based on real case materials and had received both funding from the Russian Culture Ministry and the prestigious Golden Mask award, Berkovich and Petriychuk were arrested in May.

During the closed-door trial on Monday, state-appointed “expert witnesses” distorted the play’s cautionary message, claiming that it contained signs of radical feminist ideology and glorified terrorists while discriminating against Russian men. However, both artists steadfastly maintained that their work sought to simply illuminate the factors that drive Russian women towards radical Islam.

Human rights advocates argue that Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin’s sweeping campaign of suppressing dissent against his illegal invasion of Ukraine is the real reason why the duo were arrested. Prior to her arrest, Berkovich was reportedly a strong critic of Putin’s policies, having posted a number of anti-war poems on her social media account.

As in the case of opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, who suspiciously died in a remote Russian prison, Berkovich fears that she will never see her two children and elderly family members again.

“She said that she would never see her grandmother again because she would not live another six years at 90. She might not see her adopted children; we don’t know what will happen to them tomorrow,” Defense lawyer Ksenia Karpinskaya told Russia’s TV Rain.

“She probably won’t be able to give birth to new children because of her age. And both the judge and the prosecutor knew about all of this.”

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