A Russian court on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, convicted a single father named Alexei Moskalyov, over social media posts criticizing the war in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison.
According to his lawyer and activists, the case was brought to the attention of authorities by his daughter’s drawings against the invasion at school.
The case of Alexei Moskalyov, who was indicted and tried in his hometown of Yefremov, about 300 kilometers (about 186 miles) south of Moscow, has drawn international attention and is a grim indication that the Kremlin is intensifying its crackdown on dissent, targeting more people and handing out harsher punishments for any expression of criticism of the war.
In a twist to the case, the 54-year-old Moskalyov fled house arrest overnight, court officials said, and was not present for the outcome of his trial. He had been wearing a bracelet that tracked his movements but apparently had taken it off.
Moskalyov’s lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko told reporters after the hearing that he learned of his client’s disappearance at the court hearing. “I don’t know where he is,” the lawyer said.
Moskalyov was accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian army, a criminal offense in accordance to a law Russian authorities adopted shortly after sending troops into Ukraine.
He was indicted over a series of social media posts about Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and referencing the “terrorist” regime in Moscow.
However, according to Moskalyov’s lawyer and activists who supported him throughout the case and trial, his troubles started last spring after his 13-year-old daughter, Maria Moskaleva, drew an antiwar picture at school that said, “Glory to Ukraine.” Masha’s school contacted the police after she drew the picture.
In April 2022, Moskalyov was fined 32,000 roubles (around $415 or £338 at the time), for his critical comments on social media. His apartment was raided in December, 2022 and a criminal case was opened against him this month.
Moskalyov was placed under house arrest and his daughter was taken away from him and placed into an orphanage. Alexei has not even been allowed to speak to her on the phone.
At the trial, which was rapidly concluded in one day on Monday, March 27, 2023, Moskalyov rejected the accusations and insisted that he had nothing to do with the social media posts in question.
Moskalyov Tagged As A Political Prisoner
Moskalyov has been recognized as a political prisoner by human rights group, Memorial, which has itself been banned by Russia’s authorities.
As the case resumed on Tuesday in Yefremov, 320km (200 miles) south of Moscow, his lawyer spread on a table some of the girl’s latest drawings of animals which she had done while in care.
Moskalyov’s lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko told an independent news outlet that on one letter to her father, she had written, “Papa you’re my hero.”
Alexei Moskalyov is the latest Russian to be given a jail term for discrediting the military but his case has attracted international attention because of the authorities’ decision to remove his daughter from their home early in March.
Moskalyov is scheduled to appear in court again next week at a hearing on a petition to strip him off of his parental rights.
Last week, one of Alexei Moskalyov’s supporters, Natalya Filatova, opined that she believes the story of the Moskalyov family reflects the crackdown on dissent in Russia.
“Our constitution proclaims freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, total freedom for citizens to express their opinions but now we’re forbidden from doing that,” she said.
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