Novelist Boris Akunin ordered arrested by Russian court amid Russia-Ukraine war

The 67-year-old was charged in December with ‘justifying terrorism’ after expressing support for Ukraine in a prank call made to him.

A Moscow court has ordered the arrest in absentia of best-selling detective writer Boris Akunin as part of an ongoing crackdown on critics of its war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ordered the arrest of Akunin, the pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, on Tuesday.

The 67-year-old was charged in December with “justifying terrorism” after expressing support for Ukraine in a prank call staged by pro-Kremlin activists.

Akunin, who currently resides in London, is to be detained and taken into custody if he sets foot in Russia.

Prank call

The pranksters, known as Vovan and Lexus, posed as Ukrainian officials in their call last December, one of them pretending to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A criminal case was opened against Akunin for “discrediting the army” — specifically for “justifying terrorism” and spreading “fake news” about the Russian military.

Moscow made disparagement of its military illegal weeks after launching its full-scale assault on Ukraine in February 2022, and has detained thousands of people for criticising the war.

Many prominent cultural figures have since fled the country.

Akunin, best known for his historical detective novels, is one of Russia’s most widely read contemporary authors.

A long-standing critic of the Kremlin, he denounced Moscow’s assault on Ukraine as “absurd” shortly after the offensive began in February 2022.

Prior to this, he had already been labelled a “foreign agent” by Moscow.

One of Russia’s leading publishers, AST, responded by announcing it was suspending the printing and sale of Akunin’s books.

In an online statement, Akunin described his publisher’s move as “an important milestone”, saying that Russian writers had not been accused of terrorism since Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s purges.

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