Russia condemns father of teenager who drew anti-war picture

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Russian court on Tuesday convicted a single father of posting war-critical social media posts in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison – a case brought against him after his daughter’s drawing in the School was against the invasion. according to his lawyer and activist.

But Alexei Moskalyov escaped from house arrest before his sentence was announced in his Russian hometown of Yefremov and is at large, court officials said. His 13-year-old daughter Maria, who was taken from him by authorities, wrote him a letter supporting his trial from the orphanage where she lives, according to his attorney, telling him, “Dad, you are my hero.”

Moskalyov’s case drew international attention and was a grim reminder of it the Kremlin is intensifying its action on dissent, targeting more people and imposing harsher penalties for any criticism of the war. The government’s broad campaign of repression has not been seen since the Soviet era.

Moskalyov, 54, has been accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian army, an offense under a law passed by Russian authorities shortly after troops were sent to Ukraine.

He has been charged with a series of social media posts about Russian atrocities in Ukraine and reference to the “terrorist” regime in Moscow that he claims he did not make. But according to his lawyer and activists, who supported him throughout the procedure and trial, his troubles began last spring after his 13-year-old daughter Maria painted an anti-war picture at Yefremov School No. 9 depicting missiles falling over a Russian flew a flag at a woman and a child and said, “Honour to Ukraine.”

In April 2022, Moskalyov was fined for making critical comments on social media. His home was ransacked in December and criminal proceedings against him were opened this month. He was placed under house arrest and his daughter was taken to an orphanage.

During the trial, which ended on a day Monday, three teachers and the principal of Maria’s school testified that they accidentally found Moskalyov’s “discrediting” social media posts and that Maria’s drawing had nothing to do with the case – which contradicted his reports from lawyer and other supporters. Men in military uniforms and medals turned up at the courthouse on Monday, apparently to support the authorities.

Moskalyov denied the allegations, insisting he had nothing to do with the social media posts in question.

In a brief closing statement, Moskalyov said he was “against” what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation.”

“How can one think about death, about people who die? Adults die, children. … Only negatively – how else can one feel war?” He was quoted as saying by Russia’s independent news site Mediazona.

Court officials said Moskalyov escaped from house arrest overnight from his apartment in Yefremov, about 300 kilometers south of Moscow and a similar distance north of the Ukrainian border. He had been wearing a bracelet that tracked his movements, but had obviously taken it off.

When an officer announced in court on Tuesday that Moskalyov had fled, those present shouted “Bravo!”

Moskalyov’s lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko, said he learned of his client’s disappearance at the hearing. Moskalyov was due to appear in court again next week over a petition to limit his parental rights.

Biliyenko told The Associated Press the authorities’ petition to limit Moskalyov’s parental rights was based almost entirely on his political views and his charge of discrediting the army, which they said posed a threat to his daughter.

Officials have also accused Moskalyov of being a neglectful parent because Maria stopped going to school after her drawing was reported to the police and she was interrogated. According to the supporters of Biliyenko and Moskalyov, she was afraid to return after that and studied at home.

The lawyer described the persecution of Moskalyov as “family bullying”.

The lawyer visited Maria at the orphanage on Tuesday and told reporters that the local administration allowed him to photograph a letter she wrote to her father that ended with “Daddy, you are my hero,” though he couldn’t see her . Biliyenko also received two drawings made by Maria, depicting a dog and rabbit.

Olga Podolskaya, a member of the Yefremov municipal council who has helped Moskalyov, told AP that the father and daughter clearly love each other and the decision to take Maria away was politically motivated. Maria’s mother left when the girl was three years old and has another family in another city, Podolskaya AP told over the phone.

Podolskaya said she was shocked by the news that Moskalyov had escaped house arrest.

“We are all very concerned, including Alexei’s lawyer,” she said, adding that other relatives are now hoping to seek custody of Maria.

Biliyenko said after the hearing that he tried to call Moskalyov after his visit to the orphanage, but he didn’t answer the phone. “I thought he was brought here (to the courthouse) because they usually arrive in advance,” he said.

Russian human rights activists say the Kremlin has increased pressure on those who disagree with the war. Rights group OVD-Info, which follows political cases and is providing legal assistance this month, has seen an increase in prison sentences for people accused of anti-war stance, said Daria Korolenko, the group’s lawyer and analyst.

“The repression is picking up steam,” Korolenko told AP in a phone interview, adding that the numbers are expected to keep increasing.

Also on Tuesday, a court in St. Petersburg continued hearing the case against Irina Tsibaneva, 60, who is accused of grave desecration. In October, she left a note on President Vladimir Putin’s parents’ grave that read, among other things: “You raised a monster and a murderer.” If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

Earlier this month a court in the nearby Tver region sentenced a couple to 6 1/2 and 7 years in prison for vandalism and spreading false information about the army. According to OVD-Info, Alexander Martynov and Lyudmila Razumova have been charged after allegedly writing critical social media posts and anti-war and anti-government slogans on buildings.

In Moscow, police last week raided two bars suspected of raising funds for the Ukrainian military. According to media reports, the police played patriotic songs during the raid and forced the guests to sing along. At least 40 people were briefly arrested.

Another recent raid in the capital targeted an event dedicated to it the imprisoned artist Sasha Skochilenko, who is on trial for spreading false information about the army. Those attending the event said they were beaten or threatened with rape by police.

In the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, a court overturned the acquittal of a feminist artist charged with distributing pornography after she shared artworks of women’s bodies online. Julia Tsevtkovas Case drew international outrage and ended in a rare acquittal last year after fears she would be sent to prison. Tsvetkova has since left Russia; A new trial was ordered for her case.

In Yefremov, Yelena Agafonova, an activist who has helped the Moskalyov family, told the AP after the trial that anyone’s comments these days can get them in trouble with the authorities.

“Maybe your children will voice their opinions somewhere. Maybe somewhere your kids will laugh at something, and they’ll be in the exact same situation that this family is in now,” she said. “Maybe a neighbor will call and think they’ve seen something (unusual). So while you’re lying on the couch, this is all going to happen more and more.”


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