War in Ukraine: a Russian separated from his 13-year-old daughter for an anti-war cartoon, convicted and on the run
A Russian, separated from his 13-year-old daughter who was placed because of a drawing at school against the war in Ukraine, was sentenced on Tuesday March 28 to two years in prison and fled, have announced the authorities. The affair has aroused great indignation for several weeks in Russia: it has become one of the symbols of the merciless repression against those who oppose the military operation launched by the Kremlin in Ukraine.
It took a new turn on Tuesday when the court in Efremov, 300 km south of Moscow, announced that the defendant, Alexei Moskalev, had vanished. “The verdict was read in the absence of the defendant, because he disappeared and did not appear at the hearing”told Agence France-Presse the head of communication of the court, Elena Mikhaïlovskaïa.
Shortly before, the court found Mr. Moskalev, 54, guilty of having “discredited” the Russian armed forces, sentencing him to two years’ imprisonment, the sentence requested the day before by the prosecutor. He had been under house arrest since 1er March.
Asked by AFP, his lawyer, Vladimir Bilienko, said he last saw him on Monday.
The NGO Memorial denounced in a press release ” repression “ aimed at Mr. Moskalev and his daughter, seeing “an attempt to intimidate all opponents of war”. “We consider Mr. Moskalev a political prisoner” on the run, supported the NGO.
An online petition
The case began when Mr Moskalev’s daughter, Maria, a 13-year-old middle school student, made a drawing in class showing missiles heading towards a woman and child with a Ukrainian flag. In the context of an all-out hunt for voices critical of the offensive in Ukraine, the headmistress of the school immediately alerted the police. Investigating the father, authorities say they found online posts critical of the operation in Ukraine, which resulted in him being charged with “discredited the army” Russian.
As a result, Mr. Moskalev was placed under house arrest on 1er mars and her daughter placed in a home and deprived of all contact with her father. The future of the family will be played out during another trial, which begins on April 6, and during which Mr. Moskalev risks being permanently deprived of his parental authority. Her lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that Maria Moskalev had been placed under guardianship and that she could be “sent to an orphanage within a month”.
As a sign of the indignation aroused by this case, an online petition has been launched, despite pressure from the authorities, to demand the return of the child to his father. Even the boss of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigojine, whose men are fighting on the front line in Ukraine, has supported Maria and criticized local authorities.
This case shows the extent of the repression orchestrated by the Kremlin. Shortly after the start of its offensive, which began in February 2022, Russia introduced a series of criminal sanctions to suppress any form of criticism of the military. Renowned opponents and ordinary citizens have been arrested, and some have already been tried and sentenced.