Russian court detains woman for insulting WWII monument

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 10:14 AM

(Reuters) – A Russian court has detained a 23-year-old woman on suspicion of “rehabilitating Nazism” after she filmed a video mocking a monument to the World War Two Battle of Stalingrad, the local branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Friday.

The unnamed woman faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the crime, which is described partly as the “dissemination of information expressing obvious disrespect for society about the days of military glory”.

In the video, filmed in July 2023, she stands below “The Motherland Calls,” an 85-metre tall statue of a woman brandishing a sword, and mimics touching the figure’s breasts while laughing.

The Investigative Committee said the detained woman “carried out immoral and cynical actions insulting the symbol of the steadfastness of the Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War”, the term Russia uses for World War Two.

Authorities opened a criminal case after she posted the video of her stunt to Instagram. She subsequently fled Russia and was placed on a wanted list.

The woman was arrested this week at a Moscow airport upon her return to Russia and is being held in pre-trial detention until March 9. A date for her trial has not been announced.

The monument is located on a hill overlooking Volgograd — known in Soviet times as Stalingrad — and is part of a triptych commemorating one of the war’s bloodiest battles and a decisive Soviet victory against the Nazis.

The Soviet Union suffered over a million casualties during the battle, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has likened the war in Ukraine – which he casts as a defensive move against a West he says is seeking to carve up Russia – to the challenge Moscow faced when Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Russia has cracked down on domestic dissent and also on behaviour that can be construed as unpatriotic since the start of what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

The Kremlin repeatedly refers to the Kyiv government as a “Nazi regime” and justifies its invasion of Ukraine as defending Russia against Nazism.

Ukraine – which was part of the Soviet Union and itself suffered devastation at the hands of Hitler’s forces – rejects those parallels as spurious pretexts for a war of imperial conquest. It also notes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is Jewish.

(Reporting by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Gareth Jones)