A Russian court on Tuesday convicted a single father over social media posts criticizing the war in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison — a case brought to the attention of authorities by his daughter’s drawings against the invasion at school, according to his lawyer and activists.
The case of Alexei Moskalyov, who was indicted and tried in his hometown of Yefremov, about about 185 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 wasn’t present for the outcome of his trial. He had been wearing a bracelet that tracked his movements but apparently had taken it off.
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. But, according to his lawyer and activists who supported him throughout the case and trial, his troubles started last spring after his 13-year-old daughter, Maria, drew an antiwar picture at school that said, “Glory to Ukraine.”
In April 2022, Moskalyov was fined for his critical comments on social media. 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 placed into an orphanage.
At the trial, which was rapidly concluded in one day on Monday, Moskalyov rejected the accusations and insisted that he had nothing to do with the social media posts in question.
Moskalyov’s lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko told reporters after the hearing that he learned of his client’s disappearance at the court hearing. Moskalyov was scheduled to appear in court again next week at a hearing on a petition to strip him off of his parental rights.