Russia: Calls grow to free jailed anti-war sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky as final appeal date set

May 8, 2024
Boris Kagarlitsky behind bars
Russian anti-war socialist Boris Kagarlitsky was sentenced to five years’ jail on February 13. Graphic: Green Left

The lawyer for jailed anti-war sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky has been notified by the Judicial Chamber on Cases of the Military of Russia’s Supreme Court that his client’s final appeal against a five-year jail term will be heard on June 5.

The news comes as more Australian politicians, including Greens’ Foreign Affairs spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John and Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung independent Senator Lidia Thorpe, add their names to a global petition demanding Kagarlitsky's release.

The campaign was also boosted after free speech organisation PEN America, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Washington Post recently profiled the case.

The renowned author and editor of the leftist media platform Rabkor (Worker Correspondent) was first arrested in July for “justifying terrorism”. The charge related to comments he made suggesting the 2022 attack on the Kerch bridge connecting occupied Crimea and Russia was unsurprising “from the military viewpoint”. 

Initially handed a fine by a military court in December, Kagarlitsky had his original sentence overturned by a military court of appeal on February 13, after it agreed with the prosecution that a fine was “unjust due to its excessive leniency”. Kagarlitsky was instead sentenced to five years’ jail with a further two-year ban on him administering any website upon release.

In response, The Boris Kagarlitsky International Solidarity Campaign launched a global petition calling for his release along with all Russian anti-war political prisoners. More than 15,000 people from about 100 countries have signed on to date.

Senators Steele-John and Thorpe join signatories including Australian Greens Leader in the Senate Larissa Waters, Greens federal MPs Max Chandler-Mather and Stephen Bates, NSW Greens state MP Jenny Leong, and Socialist Alliance local councillors Sue Bolton (Merri-bek) and Sarah Hathway (Geelong).

Others are also speaking out for Kagarlitsky.

Washington Post Moscow bureau chief Robyn Dixon's May 6 article said: “Putin’s push to remake Russia is marked by the persecution of thousands of those he calls ‘scum and traitors’ — enemies of the state.

“More than 116,000 Russians were tried under repressive criminal or administrative articles during Putin’s most recent term, the highest since Stalinist times, according to a study by Proekt, an investigative Russian news outlet.”

“Among them is Boris Kagarlitsky, a leftist sociologist who was jailed in 1982 as a Soviet dissident in his early 20s.

“Now 65, Kagarlitsky was arrested again in July by the Federal Security Service for promoting ‘terrorism’, handcuffed and forced into an SUV by armed guards in black balaclavas, then driven 17 hours to Syktyvkar in northern Russia, where he faced court…

“He was fined and freed in December, then jailed again in February, after the prosecutor appealed. His days operating a YouTube channel out of a studio in a dim Moscow basement are finished.

“In an interview over lunch before he was sent back to prison, The Post asked why he did not leave Russia. He shrugged and smiled. Jail, he said, was 'a professional hazard'."

PEN America shone a spotlight on Kagarlitsky’s case in its Freedom to Write Index 2023. Noting that “Russia’s crackdown on free expression intensified in 2023, as part of broader efforts to stifle opposition to its war in Ukraine”, the report explains that Kagarlitsky was one of 16 writers jailed during 2023, “11 of whom were targeted for anti-war expression”.

HRW Associate Director of Europe and Central Asia Division Tanya Lokshina also commented on Kagarlitsky’s case in a May 4 article for The Moscow Times, noting that the “well-known opponent of Russia’s war in Ukraine” had been handed “a draconian sentence”.

Given “the Kremlin’s zero-tolerance war on critics and free expression, it is hard to be optimistic” regarding the cases of anti-war prisoners, Lokshina wrote.

“But this should not be about optimism. What matters is that the Kremlin has an obligation to free [anti-war prisoners], who have done nothing wrong, and to stop retaliating against its critics.

“It is everyone’s moral calling to show solidarity with them.”

[Sign the petition in support of Kagarlitsky and Russian anti-war prisoners at or]

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