A Russian single dad who fled the country after being sentenced to in prison in a case involving his 13-year-old daughter’s anti-war drawing has been detained in Belarus, according to officials.
Alexei Moskalev was apprehended in the Belarusian capital of Mink Wednesday night at the request of Russian police, according to the independent Russian news outlet SOTA Project.
Moskalev’s arrest came a day after he fled house arrest before a court sentenced him to two years for repeatedly discrediting Vladimir Putin’s military in social media posts – a claim he denies.
Dmitry Zakhvatov, a lawyer representing Moskalev, wrote on the social media platform Telegram that he has been unable to reach his client.
SOTA Project reported that Belarusian authorities likely located Moskalev by tracking his cellphone to the apartment in Minsk where he had been hiding.
“I can say that this operation to capture Moskalev was carried out at the highest level. It was sanctioned and carried out by the Belarusians, but coordinated between the [Russian security service] FSB and [the Belarusian] KGB,” Zakhvatov told independent Russian TV station TV Rain.
It was not immediately clear how or why Moskalev ended up in Belarus, which is Russia’s closest ally in the region.
Moskalev, 54, was charged with discreditation after his 13-year-old daughter, Masha, displayed a drawing in school in April that was critical of the war in Ukraine.
The child’s artwork depicted Ukraine’s flag with the words “Glory to Ukraine” on one side, and a Russian flag with the words “No to Putin/war” on the other.
Masha was taken away from her father by Russian authorities and placed in an orphanage earlier this month.
Writing from the state facility where she now lives, Masha sent a heartbreaking letter to her father for his trial this week, in which she expressed her love and support for her parent, and which closed with the words, “Daddy, you’re my hero,” according to one of Moskalev’s lawyers who photographed the note and shared it on social media.
Moskalev was accused of repeatedly criticizing the Russian military on social media, which is a crime under a Russian law that was adopted shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.
His indictment referenced a series of posts about Russian atrocities in Ukraine and the “terrorist” regime in Moscow, which Moskalev has denied making.
But according to his lawyer and civil rights activists, the dad’s legal troubles originated with his daughter’s drawing.
At his trial, which concluded in one day Monday, three teachers and the head of Masha’s school testified that they found Moskalev’s “discrediting” social media posts at random and that his daughter’s anti-war sketch had nothing to do with the case.
Although he distanced himself from the “discrediting” posts, Moskalev said in a closing statement that he was against the invasion.
“How can one feel about death, about people who are dying? Adults are dying, children. … Only negatively — how else can one feel about a war?” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s independent news site Mediazona.
Court officials said Moskalev had fled house arrest Tuesday from his apartment in Yefremov, located less than 200 miles south of Moscow. He had been wearing a GPS bracelet but apparently had removed it.
When an official announced in court Tuesday that Moskalev had bailed, some in attendance shouted, “Bravo!”
Moskalev was due back in court again next week for a hearing concerning a petition to restrict his parental rights.
One of his attorneys, Vladimir Biliyenko, said the push to distance Moskalev from his daughter was based almost entirely on his political views.
Officials have also accused Moskalev of child neglect because his daughter stopped attending school after her drawing was reported to the police and she was questioned.
According to Biliyenko and Moskalev’s supporters, the girl was scared to go back after that and studied at home.
Olga Podolskaya, a member of Yefremov’s municipal council who has been helping Moskalev, said that the father and daughter clearly love each other, and the decision to take Masha away was politically motivated.
Masha’s mother left her when the girl was 3 years old and has another family in a different city, Podolskaya said.
Moskalev’s case has drawn international attention and shed light on the Putin regime’s intensified efforts to silence and punish dissidents.
European Commission spokesman Peter Stano tweeted this week that Moskalev’s sentence was “a total disgrace.” Earlier this month, he said the prosecution of Moskalev represented political repression reaching “new levels,” akin to what happened in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.
Russia “should respect its own constitution” and international “obligations instead of punishing kids & parents for political reasons,” Stano wrote.
With Post wires