Tue | Oct 3, 2023

Russia convicts father of teen who drew antiwar picture

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2023 | 1:17 AM
Alexei Moskalyov sits in a courtroom in Yefremov, Tula region, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Moscow, Russia, on Monday.
Alexei Moskalyov sits in a courtroom in Yefremov, Tula region, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Moscow, Russia, on Monday.

TALLINN, Estonia (AP):

A Russian court on Tuesday convicted a single father over social media posts critical of the war in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison – a case brought against him after his daughter’s drawing at school opposed the invasion, according to his lawyer and activists.

But Alexei Moskalyov fled house arrest before his verdict was delivered in his Russian hometown of Yefremov and is at large, court officials said. His 13-year-old daughter Maria, who has been taken from him by the authorities, wrote him a supportive letter for his trial from the orphanage where she is living, according to his lawyer, telling him, “Daddy, you’re my hero.”

Moskalyov’s case has drawn international attention and was a grim reminder that the Kremlin is intensifying its crackdown on dissent, targeting more people and handing out harsher punishments for any criticism of the war. The broad government campaign of repression has been unseen since the Soviet era.

Moskalyov, 54, was accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian army, a criminal offence in accordance to a law Russian authorities adopted shortly after sending troops into Ukraine.

He was indicted for a series of social media posts about Russian atrocities in Ukraine and referencing the “terrorist” regime in Moscow that he insists he didn’t make. But, according to his lawyer and activists who supported him throughout the case and trial, his troubles started last spring after his 13-year-old daughter, Maria, drew an antiwar picture at Yefremov School No. 9 that depicted missiles flying over a Russian flag at a woman and child and said, “Glory to Ukraine”.

In April 2022, Moskalyov was fined for critical comments on social media. His apartment was raided in December and a criminal case was opened against him this month. He was placed under house arrest and his daughter was placed into the orphanage.

At the trial, which concluded in one day on Monday, three teachers and the director of Maria’s school testified that they found Moskalyov’s “discrediting” social media posts at random and that Maria’s drawing had nothing to do with the case – contradicting the accounts of his lawyer and other supporters. Men in military uniforms and medals showed up at the courthouse Monday, apparently in support of the authorities.