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‘Dad, you are my hero’ A Russian court sentenced a single father to two years in prison after his daughter submitted an antiwar drawing at school. But the defendant fled from under house arrest the night before.
Alexey Moskalev is a single father from Yefremov, a town in Russia’s Tula region. Back in April 2022, his 12-year-old daughter Masha “shocked” her school teachers and principal by drawing an antiwar picture in art class. The girl’s drawing depicted a woman with a Ukrainian flag defending her child from flying missiles. Above the picture, the sixth-grader had written two slogans: “Glory to Ukraine!” and “No to war.”
The middle-schooler’s protest drawing has since resulted in a year-long ordeal for the family. Masha, now 13, is currently in state custody at a juvenile shelter. Today, her father Alexey was sentenced to two years in prison, on charges of “discrediting” the Russian military. But he wasn’t in the courtroom, having fled from under house arrest the night before.
The day after Masha first got in trouble for her antiwar picture, both the girl and her father were detained by the police. At the police station, Alexey Moskalev found out that he was being charged with discrediting the Russian army, based on his comments on social media. After a court hearing, Moskalev was fined 32,000 rubles (roughly equal to $400).
Masha was now bullied constantly at school. When the girl decided to stop going to school altogether, Moskalev didn’t insist, and his daughter switched to homeschooling.
On December 30, a convoy of five police vehicles arrived at the Moskalevs’ home. The operatives raided the place, overturning the furniture and trampling the family’s belongings. They took away all the electronic equipment and all of the family’s cash savings in both rubles and U.S. dollars: all in all, almost $5,000.
On March 1, Moskalev was arrested again, and presented with new “discrediting” charges, based on alleged social media comments about the Russian atrocities against civilians in Bucha, and also about the Olenivka prison massacre. Since March 2, Moskalev was under house arrest.
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Masha Moskaleva has no contact with her father. It turns out that, as far back as January, the local juvenile commission had filed a lawsuit to limit Alexey Moskalev’s parental rights. Since May 2022, the social workers argue, the family has been on their register of at-risk families, in view of the fact that Masha’s father didn’t try to make her go back to school, while her mother lives separately and takes no interest in her daughter. The court hearing on Moskalev’s parental rights has been scheduled for April 6.
On Monday, March 27, the court considered the charges against Alexey Moskalev. While the prosecution requested two years in prison for the defendant, Moskalev himself denied his authorship of the posts in question, saying that his social media account had been hacked more than once.
In his brief concluding statement, Moskalev addressed the court:
If you ask right now, “What is your attitude to the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine,” I think that 90 percent of the people in this room will say they’re against it. And I will agree with them. What else can you say about those deaths, about people being killed? About the adults and children who are all dying. You can only condemn it, what other attitude could you possibly have.
The defendant still denied having written any “negative” or “offensive” political posts.
Moskalev’s lawyer Vladimir Bilienko was able to talk to the staff at the juvenile shelter where Masha Moskaleva is now staying. The social workers gave him some of the girl’s drawings and showed him a letter she had written to her father. “She drew a big heart at the end, and wrote: ‘Dad, you are my hero,’” says the attorney.
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