A man sentenced to two years in prison in a case launched against him after his daughter drew an anti-war picture at school is on the run from the authorities, a spokeswoman for a provincial court told journalists.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge in the town of Yefremov in Russia’s Tula region, south of Moscow, found Alexei Moskalyov guilty of discrediting the Russian army on social media and sentenced him to two years in a penal colony.
Moskalyov was not present at the hearing.
Once the proceedings were over, a court spokeswoman, responding to inquiries as to Moskalyov’s whereabouts, said: “The defendant, Mr. Moskalyov, was not present when the verdict was announced because he fled house arrest last night.”
Her words were met with applause and several cries of “Bravo!” from some of those in attendance.
Formally, Moskalyov was sentenced for two comments he made on social media in which he described Russian soldiers as rapists and Russia’s leadership as “terrorists.”
But Moskalyov’s defense team and rights activists have argued his persecution is in fact retribution for a drawing made by his daughter Masha at school in April last year, when she was 12.
In the drawing, a woman and child stand next to a flag reading “Glory to Ukraine” in the path of a rocket shower coming from the direction of a Russian tricolor flag labeled: “No to war.”
According to an interview given by Moskalyov to independent media before his arrest, Masha’s teacher informed the director of the school, who then got the police involved, triggering a chain of interrogations that he claimed involved threats and beatings.
Moskalyov was eventually detained in early March and his daughter, now 13, taken into state care. While Moskalyov was soon released under house arrest, Masha remains in what the authorities call “a social rehabilitation center” and has been denied any communication with the outside world.
The ruling on Tuesday, though not a surprise, has been decried as a further crackdown on those who oppose Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and described by some as a return to the Stalinist practice of targeting the children of “enemies of the state.” А petition calling for Masha’s release has received more than 140,000 signatures.
Speaking to journalists outside the court on Tuesday, Moskalyov’s lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko said he had been unaware of his client’s plan to flee. He said the last time they saw each other was at a court hearing a day earlier.
In another development, Moskalyov’s supporters on Tuesday attempted to visit Masha at the so-called social rehabilitation institution where she is supposedly being held, only to be told that she was not there.
According to comments from the center’s director cited by independent Russian media, Masha was attending a “culinary tournament” out of town, fueling speculation about her actual location.
The post Russian father jailed after daughter made anti-war drawing goes on the run appeared first on Politico.