Friday, March 31, 2023

A Russian child's drawing sparked a police investigation

From the BBC.

Masha's school contacted the police after the 12-year-old drew this picture

In the centre of the Russian town of Yefremov is a wall covered in pictures of war. Giant photographs of masked Russian soldiers with guns and supersized letters Z and V - symbols of the country's so-called special military operation in Ukraine.

There's a poem, too:

Good should have fists.
Good needs an iron hand
To tear the skin from those
Who threaten it.

This is the official, patriotic picture of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But in this town, 320km (200 miles) south of Moscow, you'll find another image of the Ukraine war. A very different one.

Town councillor Olga Podolskaya shows me a photo on her mobile phone. It's of a child's drawing. 

To the left is a Ukrainian flag with the words "Glory to Ukraine", on the right, the Russian tricolour and the inscription "No to war!". 

As missiles fly in from the direction of Russia, a mother and her child stand defiantly in their path.

The picture was drawn in April 2022 by then 12-year-old Masha Moskaleva

Her father Alexei, a single parent, had contacted the town councillor for advice. He told her that after seeing Masha's drawing, her school had called the police.

"The police started investigating Alexei's social media," Olga tells me. "And they told him that he was bringing up his daughter in a bad way."

Charges followed. 

For an anti-war post on social media, Alexei was fined 32,000 roubles (around $415 or £338 at the time) for discrediting the Russian armed forces. 

A few weeks ago, a criminal case was opened against him. Again, anti-war posts formed the basis for discreditation charges.

This time Alexei faces a possible prison sentence. 

Alexei is currently under house arrest in Yefremov. His daughter Masha has - for now - been sent to a children's home. Alexei has not even been allowed to speak to her on the phone.

"No-one has seen Masha since 1 March," Olga Podolskaya tells me, "despite our attempts to get access to the children's home and to find out how she is.

"The Russian authorities want everyone to toe the line. No-one is allowed to have their own opinion. 

If you disagree with what someone thinks, then don't read their social media posts. But don't put that person under house arrest and their child in a children's home." 


Masha Moskalyov has since been reunited with her estranged mother, while her father was arrested in Minsk and (in absentia) given a jail sentence of two years over his daughter’s anti-war drawing. 

John Curtis has written about the case for Cartoonists Rights' blog and Ann Telnaes granted use of her cartoon on the subject.

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