Russian schoolgirl snatched from family over anti-war drawing

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A Russian schoolgirl has not been seen since March 1, after being taken by authorities to a children’s home for drawing an anti-war picture. Thirteen-year-old Masha Moskaleva drew an image with the Ukrainian flag and the words “Glory to Ukraine”, with a Russian flag and the words “No to war!”. Missiles are depicted flying from Russia to the west, as a mother and child stand resolutely in their path.

Masha’s school phoned the Yefremov police when they saw her drawing, which she did when she was 12 in April 2022.

After the school involved state authorities, Masha’s father, Alexei, a single parent, made contact with a Yefremov town councillor for advice.

Before the war, Yefremov was a town of between 35,000 and 40,000 people, on the Krasivaya Mecha River, about 4 hours drive from Moscow.

Olga Podolskaya, the town councillor Alexei contacted, told the BBC: “The police started investigating Alexei’s social media and they told him that he was bringing up his daughter in a bad way.”

Following the discovery of an anti-war social media post made by Alexei, he was fined the equivalent of £338, around 32,000 rubles.

More recently, Alexei has once again had criminal charges brought against him for anti-war rhetoric. On this occasion, the stakes are far higher, with the possibility of jail time.

As it stands, Masha’s dad is under house arrest, while she’s been sent to a children’s home. No contact has been permitted between the two of them, including speaking over the phone.

“No-one has seen Masha since 1 March,” Olga Podolskaya told the national broadcaster, “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.”

Alexei’s lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko, said: “He is very worried because his daughter is not with him”.

“Everything in the flat reminds him of her. He’s worried about what may be happening to her.”

He continued: “If they had real questions for the father, they should have invited him to give a statement. They should have invited Masha, too, and spoken to her”.

“None of this was done. They just decided to send her off [to the children’s home]. In my opinion, if it wasn’t for the kind of administrative and criminal charges Alexei has received, this wouldn’t be happening.

“The social services seem obsessed with this family. I think it’s purely for political reasons. The family’s problems only began after the girl drew that picture.”

Masha’s condition remains unclear.

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