Russian whose child drew anti-war image gets jail term but flees

Alexei Moskalyov’s 13-year-old daughter has been placed in a children’s home after drawing Russian missiles raining down on a Ukrainian mother and child.

Russian citizen Alexei Moskalyov, who is accused of discrediting the country's armed forces in the course of Russia-Ukraine
Alexei Moskalyov was accused of discrediting Russia's armed forces [SOTA/Reuters]

A Russian man whose daughter drew an anti-war picture at school has been sentenced to two years in a penal colony on charges of discrediting the armed forces.

Court officials, however, said that Alexei Moskalyov was not present for the sentencing on Tuesday as he had fled from house arrest overnight. The 54-year-old had been wearing a bracelet that tracked his movements but apparently had taken it off, and his whereabouts remained unclear.

The single father has been separated from his 13-year-old daughter Masha since he was placed under house arrest at the start of this month and she was moved to a children’s home in their hometown of Yefremov, south of Moscow.

His lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko, said he had not seen his client since Monday and did not know whether he had fled.

“At the moment, to be honest, I’m in a state of shock,” Biliyenko told Reuters news agency. He added the defence would appeal against the verdict and Masha would remain in the children’s home for the time being.

Moskalyov was accused of repeatedly discrediting the Russian army, an act that was outlawed shortly after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine and that carries a jail sentence of several years.

The investigation started after Masha drew a picture last April showing Russian missiles raining down on a Ukrainian mother and child.

The drawing, which featured a Ukrainian flag with the words “Glory to Ukraine” and a Russian tricolour with the slogan “No to war”, prompted the head of her school to call the police.

Russian authorities began examining Moskalyov’s social media activity and he was initially fined 35,000 roubles ($460) for comments critical of the Russian army.

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 taken away from him and put in an orphanage.

At the trial on Monday, Moskalyov rejected the accusations and insisted that he had nothing to do with the social media posts in question.

Moskalyov was scheduled to appear in court again next week at a hearing on a petition to strip him of his parental rights.

Biliyenko, the lawyer, said he visited Masha on Tuesday in the children’s home, officially named “Social Rehabilitation Centre For Minors Number 5”.

He came away with drawings she had made for her father and was allowed to photograph a letter she had written him that read: “Dad, you are my hero”.

The case has provoked an outcry among Russian human rights activists and sparked an online campaign to reunite father and daughter.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies