They carried flowers and handmade signs reading “нет войне” – No to war. They tried to deliver their message in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow – and for this they were arrested.
This is the story emerging in Russia about five children, aged 7 to 11, who went with their mothers to visit the embassy on Tuesday. Their excursion could have served as a reminder of shared humanity, even during conflict. But the Moscow police did not see it that way. They detained the children and parents, putting them in a holding cell.
The police shouted at the parents, threatening to have the “brave moms” lose their parental rights, according to Alexandra Arkhipova, who posted photos and a video of the ordeal on her Facebook page.
Children’s signs in Moscow include images of what, for now at least, seems like an impossible equation: a Russian flag followed by a plus sign and a Ukrainian flag, equaling a heart.
The case caught the attention of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who shared images of children and said it was another sign of the toll Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is taking on children.
Referring to Putin as he spoke about children being held in Moscow, Kuleba said: “That’s how scared this man is.”
Alexandra Arkhipova/Screenshot by NPR
Arkhipova said she passed details of the arrests to the OVD-info website, which monitors potential police abuse in Russia. The website posted a video of what he said was the time of the arrest. In the images, the cries of a child can be heard echoing in the street where several police vehicles were massed.
Arkhipova, who is an anthropology expert and researcher at RANEPA University, says the two mothers are Ekaterina Zavizion and Olga Alter. She says they were arrested along with their children, Liza Gladkova, 11, Gosha Petrov, 11, Matvey Petrov, 9, David Petrov, 7, and Sofya Gladkova, 7.
“A video attachment showed one of the women explaining to a crying girl from inside a cell that ‘the task is for fewer people to come together and say they are against the war,'” reports the Moscow Times.
After their arrest, the group was first told that they might have to spend the night in a cell. But, Arkhipova said in an update, they have been released and now face potential court dates and fines.
“Right now we need the help of the community, the help of journalists and human rights activists,” she said, sharing the story on Facebook, Telegram and other platforms.
As of Monday, Russian authorities had arrested around 6,400 anti-war protesters since the invasion began last week, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.