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Elderly teacher flees Russia after facing criminal charges for telling students about atrocities in Bucha

Source: Agentstvo

A 65-year-old schoolteacher has fled Russia after being charged with spreading “disinformation” about the Russian army for telling her students about atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha.

In April 2022, during a schoolwide initiative called “Lesson of Kindness,” Russian language and literature teacher Natalia Taranushenko reportedly told her class about the brutal acts committed by the Russian army in Bucha during the town’s occupation, showed students multiple segments from Ukrainian news programs, and told them that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates international law, according to the outlet Agentstvo. The Telegram channel Baza notes that Taranushenko also told the students that despite her opposition to the war, she did not want to live in any country except for Russia.

After the lesson, one of Taranushenko’s students complained about her statements to his father, who proceeded to write multiple denunciations of the teacher to the authorities and demand she be fired from the school. For two years, law enforcement declined to launch a criminal case against Taranushenko, but in mid-June 2024, according to the Telegram channel Astra, she was charged based on materials compiled by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Extremism Center. Taranushenko learned about the charges from media reports, according to a source who spoke to Agentstvo. The charges against her carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

On June 12, according to another Agentstvo source who knows Taranushenko, she left Russia. He said the teacher is now located in a non-E.U. country, where she’s recovering from the stress of what he described as a difficult journey out of Russia.

On Monday, Agentstvo named Taranushenko’s denouncers as Artyom Aleksandrov and Dmitry Naavgust. A document issued to Taranushenko in May 2022 indicates that “the parents of [students] G. D. Naavgust and A. M. Aleksandrov reported that [the teacher’s] statements caused their children psychological trauma and emotional distress.”

Dmitry Naavgust continued to report Taranushenko to the authorities even after his daughter transferred to a different school in the fall of 2022, according to one of Agentstvo’s sources. The outlet also said that Artyom Aleksandrov, who reportedly stopped submitting complaints against the teacher in 2022, is a soldier and has participated in the invasion of Ukraine.

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