MOSCOW — Russian-Armenian climate youth activist Arshak Makichyan, original from Armenia, has been freed from jail, after staging a school strike in Pushkin Square, Moscow, for more than 40 weeks. The 25-year-old violinist began his solo strike on Fridays after being inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. He was sentenced to six days in prison last Friday on charges of participating in a protest without permission. He was released from prison Thursday morning and has vowed to continue his Friday protests.
Supporters said the punishment of Arshak Makichyan was disproportionately severe, and was one of the harshest crackdowns on student campaigners anywhere in the world.
He had recently returned from international climate talks in Madrid but was summoned by the Russian authorities last Friday to face charges that he participated in a protest without permission.
Earlier, he tweeted thanks to his lawyer and supporters. “We are waiting for the judge’s decision,” he wrote, then later updated with the verdict: “Six days of arrest.”
Climate activists from dozens of other countries expressed solidarity on social networks. “Hang in there. You are doing the right thing,” said the Fridays4Future Twitter account, which described the activist as an inspiration.
Shortly before September’s global strike, Makichyan told the Guardian the lengths he and fellow Russian campaigners went to try to avoid problems with the authorities.
“In Moscow it is almost impossible to get permission for a mass demonstration so we protest in a queue. One person holds a poster for five minutes, then hands over to the next person who is waiting nearby. That way, we don’t have any problems because it is a series of solo strikes rather than a group gathering,” said the graduate of the Moscow Conservatory.
He had applied unsuccessfully more than 10 times for approval for a bigger protest in the hope of building momentum for the climate movement in Russia, a major gas-producing nation that has one of the world’s worst records in tackling emissions.