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Ukraine war: How a Russian child’s drawing sparked a police investigation

Ukraine war: How a Russian child's drawing sparked a police investigation

In the centre of the Russian town of Yefremov is a wall surface covered in images of war. Giant photographs of masked Russian soldiers with weapons and supersized letters Z and V – symbols of the country’s so-called “unique army procedure” in Ukraine.

There’s a poem, too:

Excellent should have hands.

Good requirements an iron hand

To tear the skin from those

That threaten it.

A screen grab from a video released by local activists showing 12-year-old Masha, who was last seen in public on 1 March
This is the authorities, patriotic image of Russia’s intrusion of Ukraine.

However in this town, 200 miles (320km) south of Moscow, you’ll discover another image of the Ukraine war. An extremely various one.

Community councillor Olga Podolskaya shows me a photo on her mobile phone. It’s of a youngster’s drawing. To the left is a Ukrainian flag with the words “Magnificence to Ukraine”; on the right, the Russian tricolour and also the inscription “No to battle!”. As rockets fly in from the direction of Russia, a mommy and her youngster stand certainly in their path.

The picture was pulled in April 2022 by 12-year-old Masha Moskaleva. Her daddy Alexei, a solitary parent, had gotten in touch with the town councillor for advice. He informed her that after seeing Masha’s illustration, her college had actually called the police.

” The police started checking out Alexei’s social networks,” Olga informs me. “And also they told him that he was raising his child in a bad way.”

Charges complied with. For an anti-war blog post on social media sites, Alexei was fined 32,000 roubles (around $415 or ₤ 338 at the time) for discrediting the Russian militaries. A couple of weeks earlier, a criminal instance was opened up versus him. Again, anti-war articles formed the basis for discreditation charges.

This time around Alexei deals with a feasible jail sentence.

Alexei is currently under house arrest in Yefremov. His child Masha has – for now – been sent out to a kids’s house. Alexei hasn’t also been permitted to speak with her on the phone.

” No person has seen Masha given that 1 March,” Olga Podolskaya informs me, “despite our efforts to obtain access to the children’s home and also to find out exactly how she is.

” The Russian authorities desire everyone to toe the line. No one is allowed to have their very own point of view. If you differ with what somebody believes, after that don’t review their social media messages. However do not put that person under house arrest and also their kid in a children’s home.”

We’re standing outside a home block in Yefremov. A home window opens and a man watches out. It’s Alexei. We’re not enabled to connect with him. Under the guidelines of his house arrest Alexei is just allowed call with his attorney, the detective and the penitentiary service.

Alexei Moskalev appears at a window of the building where he is being held under house arrest

The attorney, Vladimir Biliyenko, has actually just shown up. He’s come to provide food and drink which regional protestors have actually purchased for Alexei.

” He is really anxious since his daughter is not with him,” Vladimir informs me after checking out Alexei Moskalev. “Everything in the flat reminds him of her. He’s concerned regarding what might be occurring to her.”

I ask the attorney why he assumes the authorities have actually taken Masha away.

” If they had real inquiries for the papa, they must have invited him to offer a statement. They ought to have invited Masha, too, and talked with her,” Vladimir claims.

” None of this was done. They just determined to send her off [to the youngsters’s residence] In my point of view, if it wasn’t for the sort of administrative and criminal costs Alexei has obtained, this would not be happening. The social solutions appear consumed with this household. I assume it’s purely for political reasons. The family members’s troubles just started after the girl attracted that picture.”

On the road, I ask Alexei’s neighbors what they consider the situation.

” She’s a great girl, and also I’ve never had an issue with the daddy,” claims pensioner Angelina Ivanovna. “But I’m afraid to claim anything. I’m scared to.”

” Possibly we could collect signatures in [Alexei’s] assistance,” a younger lady recommends. However when asked for her viewpoint on what is happening, she responds: “Sorry, I can not tell you.”

I ask if she is scared concerning possible repercussions.

” Yes, of course.”

It’s a short walk from Alexei Moskalev’s home block to School No. 9, where Masha had actually researched and that her papa says called the police over Masha’s anti-war drawing. The institution has yet to reply to our created ask for remark. When we tried to go to, we were informed we couldn’t come in. Our phone call went unanswered.

Yet I have actually gone to Institution No. 9’s internet site. The images there remind me of the patriotic wall I saw in the centre of community.

The home page features Heroes of the Unique Army Operation – two lots pictures of Russian soldiers that battled in Ukraine.

There are patriotic mottos, as well: “Every little thing for Victory. Allow’s support our boys on the cutting edge!”

Soldiers back from Ukraine checked out College No. 9 last October. In а speech that day school director Larisa Trofimova stated: “Our team believe in ourselves as well as in our Mother country, which can never slip up.”

Across town advocates of the Moskalev household and journalists are collecting at the regional court house. The Yefremov Juvenile Matters Commission is taking lawsuit to formally limit Alexei’s parental rights.

An activist raises a sign at the local court that reads: "Return Masha to her father!"
It’s a preliminary hearing known as “a discussion” with the judge. Lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko states Alexei had intended to be below face to face. However he hasn’t been permitted to disturb his home arrest to find to court, even though what goes to stake is access to his youngster.

In the court house hallway a lobbyist spreads out a poster.

” Return Masha to her father!” it proclaims. A law enforcement officer informs her to take it down.

The Juvenile Affairs Compensation has yet to react to our request to talk about the instance of Alexei Moskalev and also his little girl Masha.

One of Alexei’s supporters, Natalya Filatova, believes the story of the Moskalev family shows the suppression on dissent in Russia.

” Our constitution proclaims free speech, liberty of principles, overall flexibility for residents to reveal their opinions,” Natalya informs me. “And now we’re restricted from doing that.”

Last Updated: 24 March 2023

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