TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Authorities in Belarus said Thursday they have detained a fugitive single father who escaped house arrest in neighboring Russia shortly before he was convicted of discrediting the army and sentenced to prison following his daughter’s antiwar sketch at school.
Alexei Moskalyov was taken into custody in the Minsk region of Belarus, according to Natalya Sakharchuk, a spokeswoman for the country’s Interior Ministry. Her comments were reported by Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti and the Sputnik Belarus news site, saying he was being held “upon request of the Russian police.”
Moskalyov, 54, drew international attention this week in a case that underscored the scale of the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent when he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. He wasn’t in the courtroom in his hometown of Yefremov for the verdict Tuesday because he had fled his apartment, where he was under house arrest, just the day before.
Moskalyov was charged over social media posts criticizing the invasion under a law adopted shortly after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. During his one-day trial, which concluded Monday, he insisted he had nothing to do with the posts.
According to his lawyer and supporters, Moskalyov’s troubles began after his daughter Maria, now 13, drew an antiwar picture at Yefremov School No. 9 that depicted missiles flying over a Russian flag at a woman and child and said “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine.” The school called police, the girl was questioned and Moskalyov was fined for critical comments on social media, they said.
Months later, his apartment was raided and a criminal case was opened against him. This month, he was placed under house arrest and his daughter was placed into the orphanage.
He escaped from under house arrest before the verdict was announced by a court in Yefremov on Tuesday.
He has been declared a political prisoner by Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights groups that won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
A court in Yefremov next week is expected to consider the authorities’ petition to restrict Moskalyov’s parental rights.