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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

Russian Man Charged Over Daughter's Anti-War Drawing Flees House Arrest

Russian Man Charged Over Daughter's Anti-War Drawing Flees House Arrest

Alexei Moskalyov, 54, first came to the authorities' attention last year after his daughter Maria drew a picture at school showing missiles next to a Russian flag heading towards a woman and child standing by a Ukrainian flag.
A single father, who was separated from his daughter and sentenced on Tuesday to two years in prison over "discrediting" the Russian army, has fled house arrest, officials said.

Alexei Moskalyov, 54, first came to the authorities' attention last year after his daughter Maria drew a picture at school showing missiles next to a Russian flag heading towards a woman and child standing by a Ukrainian flag.

Subsequently a criminal case was opened against him over alleged comments criticising Russia's assault on Ukraine.

On Tuesday, a court in the town of Yefremov south of Moscow handed Moskalyov a two-year jail sentence over comments on social media criticising Moscow's assault on Ukraine.

But in a dramatic turn of events, court officials said Moskalyov had fled house arrest.

Moskalyov has been separated from his 13-year-old daughter as punishment for his criticism of Kremlin policies, a first in Russia, experts say.

"The verdict was read out in the absence of the defendant, because he disappeared and did not appear at the hearing," Elena Mikhailovskaya, a spokeswoman for the Yefremov district court, told AFP.

Moskalyov's lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko said he was in a "state of shock".

"His disappearance is a total surprise for me. This has happened for the first time in my career," he told AFP.

He said that Moskalyov's daughter Maria could be sent to an orphanage "within a month".

The Moskalyovs' case has garnered national attention and led to an online petition calling for the girl to be re-united with her father.

The pair hail from Yefremov, a small town of around 37,000 people some 300 kilometres (180 miles) south of Moscow.

School drawing

The case against Moskalyov was opened after Maria's headmistress contacted the police about her picture with the flags and the missiles.

Police said an online search uncovered comments criticising Moscow's action in Ukraine on the social media profiles of the girl's father.

In early March, authorities placed Maria in a "rehabilitation centre" for minors, while Moskalyov was put under house arrest.

On Monday, prosecutors demanded a two-year prison term for the father.

Since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine over a year ago public criticism of Moscow's offensive in the pro-Western country has been outlawed.

During the height of Stalin-era purges in the late 1930s thousands of children were taken away from their parents.

In modern Russia, the first recorded attempts to strip activists of parental rights were in Moscow in 2019. Prosecutors' attempts to punish two families for taking their children to political protests were not successful at the time, however.

Even Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner paramilitary force spearheading Russia's assault in eastern Ukraine, has voiced support for Maria and criticised the local authorities.
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