A Moscow court on Friday ordered the arrest of a theatre director and a playwright on charges of "justifying terrorism" over an award-winning play about Russian women recruited online to marry radical Islamists in Syria.
Director Yevgeniya Berkovich and author Svetlana Petriychuk were placed in custody until July 4, Russian news agencies reported.
The case comes as Moscow has launched an unprecedented crackdown on dissent at home as troops fight in Ukraine and as much of the Russian arts community has fled the country.
Berkovich is also an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin's more than year-long Ukraine offensive, publishing poems criticising the military campaign.
Unlike many members of Russia's liberal arts scene, the 38-year-old refused to leave the country during the offensive.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
The women were detained a day earlier, a move that shocked Russia's shrinking theatre community.
Thy were accused of "justifying terrorism" in their play titled "Finist, the Brave Falcon."
The women-only performance about Russian women who went to marry men in Syria won two prestigious Golden Mask theatre awards last year.
Berkovich was a student of Kirill Serebrennikov, one of Russia's most innovative and successful directors, who left the country.
"Such people in culture in a normal country are a rarity, a miracle, pride. But in Russia, everything is now the other way around," Serebrennikov said after her arrest was announced.
"You are a star," he said, calling Berkovich his "most talented" student.
- Ukraine poems -
Russia's exiled community rushed to the two women's defence, with many suggesting the director was targeted because of her position on Ukraine, and decrying charges they called absurd.
"It is a bit like arresting Dostoyevsky for justifying killing old ladies after writing 'Crime and Punishment'," the journalist Alexander Baumov was quoted as saying on the Meduza news website.
A book that featured Berkovich's poems had recently been published in Israel, according to her Instagram page.
Her emotional poems were heavy with the victims of Moscow's Ukraine offensive.
"We need clothes for a woman / 70-years-old / from a city that no longer exists," one of them read.
"Size M -- for Mariupol," read another extract, referring to the city captured by Russian forces after being virtually razed to the ground last year.
An AFP journalist saw about 100 people outside the court, including 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner journalist Dmitry Muratov.
At least 2,000 people signed an online petition in defence of the two women. The letter calls on Russian authorities to "persecute murderers instead of poets".
Berkovich, who is from Saint Petersburg, is the granddaughter of a well-known writer from Russia's second city. She has adopted two teenage girls.
"Her children are waiting for her at home. Her mother and grandmother are waiting in Saint Petersburg," the letter in her support said.
© Agence France-Presse
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