Anti-War Russian Dad Arrested in Belarus

Aleksei Moskalyov fled house arrest hours before he was sentenced to penal colony
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
Updated Mar 30, 2023 7:18 AM CDT
Anti-War Dad Separated From Child Is On the Run in Russia
Moskalyov's lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko shows drawings that Maria Moskalyova, daughter of Alexei Moskalyov, drew for her father in a courtroom in Yefremov, south of Moscow, Russia, Monday, March 27, 2023.   (AP Photo)
UPDATE Mar 30, 2023 7:18 AM CDT

Aleksei Moskalyov, an anti-war Russian father who fled house arrest hours before he was sentenced to two years in a penal colony Tuesday, has been arrested in Belarus, his lawyer says. Dmitry Zakhvatov tells Reuters that Moskalyov's arrest in Minsk, more than 400 miles away from his hometown south of Moscow, was most likely the result of him turning his phone on and giving away his location. The 54-year-old single father was separated from his 12-year-old daughter earlier this month. Last year, he was reported to authorities after she drew anti-war drawings at school. He was convicted of discrediting the army after authorities found he had made anti-war remarks on social media. It's not clear whether he will now face more charges.

Mar 29, 2023 10:35 AM CDT

There are both hopes and fears for a Russian dissident sentenced to two years in a penal colony after his daughter drew anti-war drawings at school, as he now appears to have fled house arrest and can't be found. Aleksei Moskalyov, a single father from Yefremov, was separated from his daughter at the start of this month. He was placed under house arrest, while she was moved to a state-run orphanage and "forbidden to communicate with her father," per the New York Times. Moskalyov came to the attention of police last April when Masha, now 13, "refused to participate in a patriotic class at her school," reports the Guardian. She also drew an image of missiles being fired at a Ukrainian family, along with the words "No to war" and "Glory to Ukraine!," per Reuters.

The next day, Moskalyov and Masha were "taken away from the school by police officers," per the Times. "For three and a half hours they told me that I was providing inappropriate parenting for my child," Moskalyov, 54, told OVD-Info. "They said she'd be taken away from me and I'd be put in jail." He was initially fined. He'd allegedly described the Russian regime as "terrorists" and the Russian army as "rapists" on social media, per the Guardian. Months later, however, Moskalyov said authorities raided his home and detained him. "They locked me in a room for two and a half hours, turned on the Russian national anthem [at] full volume, and left," he told OVD-Info.

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Moskalyov was ultimately convicted of discrediting the armed forces and sentenced Tuesday to two years in a penal colony. But the Federal Penitentiary Service later said he'd removed his ankle monitor and fled his apartment shortly before 5am that day. Moskalyov's lawyer couldn't confirm that but said he last saw his client on Monday, per Reuters. Vowing to appeal the verdict, Vladimir Biliyenko appeared in court with new drawings from Masha, whom he'd visited in the orphanage. He also carried a photo of a letter she'd written to her father. "Dad, you are my hero," it reads in part. Russian human rights group Memorial, which is banned from the country, says it considers Moskalyov to be a political prisoner. Police say they're continuing to search for him. (More Russia stories.)

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