TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Russian court has dropped the authorities’ lawsuit to restrict the parental rights of a single father convicted of discrediting the army and sentenced to prison following his daughter’s antiwar sketch at school, a prominent rights group involved in the case said Friday.
Child services officials earlier this week had announced they would withdraw the lawsuit to restrict the parental rights of Alexei Moskalyov and Olga Sitchikhina, the separated parents of 13-year-old Maria whose antiwar drawing set in motion a swift and ruthless crackdown against her father.
OVD-Info, a prominent rights group involved in the case, reported Friday that the court in Moskalyov’s hometown of Yefremov has dropped the lawsuit, citing his lawyer, Vladimir Biliyenko. Biliyenko called it an important moral victory, the group said, and thanked “all caring people who worried about this family.”
Moskalyov, 54, was convicted of discrediting the army and sentenced to two years in prison last month over social media comments critical of Moscow’s war in Ukraine. The charges against him were brought under a law adopted shortly after Russian troops rolled into the neighboring country in February 2022.
According to his lawyer Biliyenko and supporters, Moskalyov’s troubles began after his daughter drew an antiwar picture at school in Yefremov 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. Last month, he was placed under house arrest and his daughter was placed in the orphanage. He escaped from under house arrest before the verdict was announced by a court in Yefremov on March 28, but two days later was detained in neighboring Belarus. Belarusian rights group Viasna said he was extradited to Russia. His whereabouts remain unknown.
In addition to criminal charges against Moskalyov, the authorities filed a lawsuit to restrict him and Maria’s mother Sitchikhina in their parental rights. Moskalyov had raised Maria alone as a single father after Sitchikhina left and started another family in a different part of Russia. Earlier this month, however, Sitchikhina picked Maria up from the orphanage and said she would be taking care of her.
Yefremov child service officials said in an online statement this week that now Maria is with her mother, “they have a good relationship” and she “started studying (in school) again,” the reasons for their lawsuit “have been eliminated.”