A Russian girl drew anti-war picture. Now she is in a children's shelter and her dad is under arrest

The school where Masha drew a picture that threw her family into turmoil. Via YouTube.

“Holod Magazine” tells the story of Alexey and Masha Moskaleva, father and daughter from Efremov, Russia. Global Voices translated and re-printed the article with permission from Holod under a partner content-sharing agreement.

About a year ago, a fifth-grade student, Masha Moskaleva, drew a drawing during art class. The picture depicted a woman with a child and two flags: one Russian and one Ukrainian. The girl wrote “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine” in the picture. Since that time, her life has drastically changed. She is now living in the shelter for minors, and her father, Alexey, is under house arrest due to a criminal case initiated against him for “discrediting” the Russian army.

The drawing: April 2022

A photo of Masha holding the picture that got her and her father into trouble with the authorities.Via YouTube.

At the end of April 2022, Masha drew a picture. In addition to Russian and Ukrainian flags and the anti-war pro-Ukrainian language, the picture depicted Russian missiles. The art teacher, Nina Vorobieva, did not like this. She went to complain to the school’s principal, Larisa Trofimova, who, in response, called the police. Masha managed to escape and run home from school. Alexei Moskalev, Masha’s dad (he is 53 years old), told OVD-Info about that day:

“She arrived home, out of breath, and said, ‘Dad, the police almost caught me. I drew a picture.’ My daughter was scared. I promised that the next day I would come to school and wait for her.”

The next day, Aleksey Moskalev went to the school. When the principal saw him, she called the police once again. The police came together with social workers. Moskalev recalled: “They began to say to me: ‘See what you are teaching a child! Look what she drew.’ I answered, ‘So what? Masha opposes the war, opposes the bloodshed. What’s wrong with that?’ The police then wrote an official report and called teachers as witnesses. We were taken to the [police] car, and the other students watched us from the windows. It looked like we were some terrorists. We were brought to the head of the police [of the Efremov district], Andrey Aksenov. He lectured me on how I was failing in raising a child.”

Moskalev raises his daughter alone. Masha’s mother has not lived with them since the girl was three.

Discreditation: April 2022

Alexey has since learned that he was charged with “discrediting the Russian army” for posting a comment on the Russian social network Odnoclassniki. The comment said, “The Russian Army. The perpetrators are near us.” On the same day, April 25, Moskalev was fined RUB 32,000 [around USD 500].

“We left the court in the evening. My daughter was hungry and crying. She was shaking,” said Alexey. “I told her: Masha, calm down. The trial took place. I was fined; now they will leave us in peace.” She said, “I’m afraid to go to school.” But I convinced her that there was nothing more to worry about.”

Federal Security Service Part 1: April 2022

This turned out not to be the case: the story continued the next day. Masha went to school, and her father soon got a phone call. He was told that he had to come to school urgently, because his daughter was “detained by the FSB.” The Federal Security Service (FSB) is the primary successor to the KGB. 

“I got dressed and ran there,” Alexei said. I was met by the FSB officers. They interrogated and lectured me for three and a half hours. They told me that I was failing in raising my child; they said they would take her away from me, and put me in jail. They also suggested [presumably, as an atonement] that Masha would become a leader of some kind of youth group that would pronounce support of the Russian army, but I kindly refused. After this incident, Masha did not go to school anymore: she begged her father not to send her there again. But the harassment of the Moskalev family by the FSB has continued.

Federal Security Service Part 2: December 2022

On December 30, 2022, at 7:30 in the morning, unknown people came to Alexey’s apartment. 

At first, Aleksey decided not to open the door, but they started sawing through the door — he had to let them in. They showed a court order to search the apartment and then began to “take things out of the closets and throw them on the floor, trample on clothes, pull out cords, tear pictures off the walls, overturn furniture,” OVD-Info wrote. They confiscated money (about USD 5,000) and mobile phones.  

After the search, Aleksey Moskalev was taken to the FSB for interrogation, and Masha was taken to a “social institution” for minors. Alexei said that during interrogation, he was asked: “Where did you get the dollars from? Who is your owner? Who do you work for?”

Then Moskalev was beaten “with his head against the wall and on the floor,” and further, “they locked him in their office for two and a half hours, turned on the Russian anthem at full volume and left.” “After that, I was close to having a heart attack. They were afraid that I would die there, so they called an ambulance. The doctors measured my blood pressure, gave me two pills, an injection, and left,” Alexey recalled. Further, the FSB officers, according to Aleksey, showed him Masha’s comment on the social network VKontakte. She posted a comment which said that “our guys are dying without sparing their lives.” Masha’s comment said: “And how much are they paid to die there?” 

As it turned out, on December 27, three days before the search, a criminal case was opened against Alexey for repeated “discrediting” of the Russian army. Aleksey was released from the FSB at 9 pm. The next morning, he picked up his daughter from the shelter.

The arrest: March 2023

After the incident, the Moskalevs decided to leave Efremov. They went to another town nearby. Elena Agafonova, a volunteer from the NGO Tula Regional People’s Council, who helped the family, told Holod that they settled not far from her home.

“I have my own business. Alexey helped me. The child (Masha) got used to me,” said Agafonova. On the morning of March 1, 2023, two unfamiliar men came to Elena Agafonova’s house. “One was in a police uniform, the second was dressed in normal clothes, and both had black masks on [balaclavas],” she told Mediazona. “We demanded a warrant, but they did not show anything and just started to break through the gate.” On that day, the police detained Aleksey Moskalev once again.

On March 2, the court sent Aleksey under house arrest until March 27. He is accused of repeatedly “discrediting” the Russian army.

A children’s shelter: March 2023

When Aleksey was detained, 13-year-old Masha was taken to a social rehabilitation center (shelter) for minors. She has not seen her father since she was taken there.

On March 3, it turned out that a lawsuit was filed to restrict the parental rights of Alexey Moskalev. The lawsuit aims to limit the parental rights of both Masha’s father and mother. According to Moskalev’s lawyer, the first hearing is scheduled for April 6, 2023

Volunteers tried to see Masha and give her a mobile phone, but the shelter staff did not give it to her. Alexey’s lawyer insists that his client should not be deprived of parental rights and Masha should be allowed to return home. He wrote an appeal to the Prosecutor General and the Human Rights Ombudsman, but has not received an answer. Aleksey Moskalev faces up to three years in prison for “discrediting” the army, and Masha could be sent to an orphanage.

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