Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko has been sentenced to six years behind bars for her social media comments on the Russian shelling of a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where civilians took cover, in the early days of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
Originating from Siberia, Ponomarenko was sentenced by a Barnaul court on charges of spreading “false information” about the Russian army, according to her employer, the Siberian outlet RusNews. The information she posted referred to the Russian bombing of the theater.
To punish her more, the court banned Ponomarenko from continuing her profession as a journalist for five years.
After her arrest in April 2022, she was held in a detention center in Petersburg. She was then sent to custody in the Altai Krai. Ponomarenko reported her mental health deteriorating in September, saying she had slit her wrists. In November 2022, she was moved to house arrest, but in early January, she was remanded.
During her trial on Tuesday, giving a closing statement, she said she did not consider herself a criminal. “How am I being subjected to military censorship if there’s no war, only a ‘special military operation’?” she asked the court.
As many as 180 criminal proceedings have been initiated since April 2022 when Russia expanded its penal code to penalize speaking against the activities of the Russian army in Ukraine, which Russia continues to dub “special military operation” but not “war”. The expansion of the code came in response to growing anti-war protests in Russia.